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THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 
1746-1949 



THE POETRY 
OF THE NEGRO 
1746-1949 



AN ANTHOLOGY EDITED BY 

LANGSTON HUGHES 

AND 

ARNA BONTEMPS 



DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, INC, 1951 
GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK 



COPYRIGHT, 1949, BY LANGSTON HUGHES AND ARNA BONTEMPS 

ALL PJGHTS RESERVED 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES AT 

THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y. 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 



The editors of this anthology are deeply indebted to the following per- 
sons for advice, guidance, research, or discovery: in regard to the poetry 
of the Caribbean, particularly are we grateful to Vivian L. Virtue and 
Wycliffe S. Bennett of the Toe'try League of Jamaica, and to Edna 
Manley; for invaluable assistance in assembling the biographies of the 
Haitian poets, to Rene Piquion, Clovis Chariot, and Dr. Mercer Cook; 
for careful research and help with the many details of checking and 
preparing the manuscript, to Dr. Hugh S. Smythe, Rosamond Johnson, 
Minnie Redmond Bowles, Nathaniel V. White, and Marjorie Greene; 
for aid in securing certain poems to Ralph Ellison and Cedric Dover; 
and to Arthur Spingarn for sharing with us his vast knowledge of the 
Negro literature of this hemisphere. 



PREFACE 



The title of this volume has somewhat more reference to a theme and 
a point of view than to the racial identity of some of its contributors. 
But this does not mean it has none at all. A number of the poems were 
chosen because the writers belonged to the group which is defined in 
the United States as Negro, even though the sum of such inclusions may 
be smaller than the number of selections made on other grounds. 

If the compilers had sought for a racial idiom- in verse form among 
Negroes, they should have concerned themselves with the words of 
Negro spirituals, witii folk rhymes, with blues, and other spontaneous 
lyrics. These song materials, no doubt, suggest a kind of poetry that is 
racially distinctive, that lies essentially outside the literary traditions of 
the language which it employs. But the present anthology consists of 
poems written within that tradition, by Negroes as well as others. 

The common thread, of course, is the Negro's experience in the 
Western world. Where the author is a Negro, any comment on any 
subject is considered within this limit. Poems by others are included 
only when they touch the subject directly, except in the case of the 
Caribbean countries, where a departure from this principle seemed 
necessary in a few cases in order to make representative selections. 

Another factor, too, blurred this logic a little. Racial distinctions vary 
from country to country. Any effort to apply the yardstick of the United 
States to the other Americas is likely to confuse more than it clarifies. 
No such attempt was made by the compilers. Moreover, in the pre- 

vii 



vili PREFACE 

dominantly Negro countries around the Caribbean, selections of repre- 
sentative poems were made sometimes without respect either to racial 
implications in the verses or to the identity of the poets. This point was 
explained to those contributors to whom it was not clear. 

The arrangement of the poems was influenced by other considera- 
tions. In the major section, containing the work of Negro poets of the 
United States, a chronological order was followed, based on the date 
of the poet's birth, or the closest estimate that could be made of it. The 
poems in the other two sections follow sequences which seemed gen- 
erally appropriate for reading purposes, the deciding element being 
sometimes historical, sometimes dramatic. 

On the whole the aim was to assemble selections which would be at 
once representative of the Negro's own poetic expression and of the 
poetry he inspired others to write. The Long Island slave Jupiter Ham- 
mon's "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential 
Cries" (1760) was the first well-known literary work by a Negro pub- 
lished in the United States. Evidence of an earlier Negro poet has been 
found in references to a Lucy Terry, to whom a verse account of an 
Indian raid on Deerfield in 1746 is credited. But the original version of 
this literary work appears to have been lost. The one used by George 
A, Sheldon in his Negro- Slavery in Old Deerfield and quoted in this 
volume is rather enigmatically described as "secondary." 

Hammon was followed by Phillis Wheatiey, a delicate girl who not 
only produced a larger amount of poetry but also won the attention of 
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as well as a number of 
prominent people in London. Somewhat later another slave, who was 
permitted to hire himself out, found employment in the home of the 
president of the University of North Carolina and in this atmosphere 
composed poems that were published in Raleigh in 1829. 

These articulate slaves belonged to a tradition of writers in bondage 
which goes back to Aesop and Terence. While Aesop's writing appears 
to have won him rewards of a sort, there is no sure indication that he 
succeeded in writing himself out of servitude. Terence did, however, 
and so did Phillis Wheatley of West Africa and Boston. Hammon be- 
came a pamphleteer for freedom, but his final years are obscure. George 
Moses Horton, the slave poet of North Carolina, waited for his de- 
liverance till the Northern armies invaded the South. 

Meanwhile in Louisiana free men of color* became an important 
element of the population, gained wealth, sent their youth to Paris to 



PREFACE ix 

study drama, music, and fencing, and to hobnob with the friends of 
Alexandre Dumas; to Rome to devote themselves to sculpture and sing- 
ing. Many of these young people were not inclined to return to their 
native state, with its oppressive racial attitudes, but some were drawn 
again by the bittersweet allurements of home in New Orleans. Enough 
trained musicians came back, for example, to bring about the organiza- 
tion of a symphony orchestra of one hundred members among this 
group at one time. Their influence in literature was strong enough to 
produce an anthology of poetry in 1845. The volume was called Les 
Cenelles., and it contained verse by a dozen of the younger French- 
speaking poets among the free Negroes writing at that time, including 
Victor Sejour, who was later to become a popular playwright in Paris. 
Oddly, the members of this group had not been taught to link them- 
selves personally with the condition of the slaves, and their poetry 
scarcely touched racial feeling. 

So the traditions of Negro poetry derive from influences and sources 
as far apart as those that inspired Jupiter Hammon's "An Address to 
Negroes in the State of New York" (1787) and Horton's book of verse, 
The Hope of Liberty, on the one hand, and Phillis Wheatley's refined 
and tempered Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral ( 1773 ) 
and Les Cenelles on the other. The lines from these to Dunbar and 
Braithwaite, to Hughes and Cullen and Donald Jeffrey Hayes, to Mar- 
garet Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks are not hard to draw. 

The Negro in Western civilization has been exposed to overwhelming 
historical and sociological pressures that are bound to be reflected in 
the verse he has written and inspired. The fact that he has used poetry 
as a form of expression has also brought him into contact with literary 
trends and influences. How one of these forces or the other has pre- 
dominated and how the results may be weighed and appraised are 
among the questions to which the poetry itself contains answers. 

LANGSTON HUGHES 
ARNA BONTEMPS 



CONTENTS 



1. NEGRO POETS OF THE U. S. A. 



LUCY TERRY 

Bars Fight 3 

JUPITER HAMMON 

An Evening Thought 4 

PHILLIS WHEATLEY 

His Excellency General Washington 6 
On Imagination 7 

GEORGE MOSES HORTON 

On Liberty and Slavery 9 

FRANCES E. W. HARPER 

The Slave Auction 10 

Let the Light Enter 11 

ARMAND LANUSSE 

Epigram 12 

PIERRE DALCOUR 

Verse Written in the Album 
of Mademoiselle 



GEORGE MARION MCCLELLAN 

The Feet of Judas 
JOSEPH S. COTTER, SR. 

The Way-Side Well 

The Tragedy of Pete 



12 
13 

14 
14 



JOHN WESLEY HOLLOWAY 

Miss Melerlee 17 

WILLIAM EDWARD BURGHABDT 
DUBOIS 

A Litany at Atlanta 18 

JAMES DAVID CORROTHERS 

Paul Laurence Dunbar 21 

An Indignation Dinner 22 

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON 

O Black and Unknown Bards 23 

Fifty Years 25 

The Creation 28 
The Glory of the Day 

Was in Her Face 30 

Sence You Went Away 31 

My City 32 

Lift Every Voice and Sing 32 

PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR 

Sympathy 33 

Dawn 34 

A Negro Love Song 34 

When Malindy Sings 35 

xi 



J CONTENTS 
Little Brown Baby 



37 
39 



A Death Song 

Ere Sleep Comes Down 

to Soothe the Weary Eyes 39 

Compensation 41 

ALICE DUNBAK NELSON 

Sonnet 41 

WILLIAM STANLEY BRATTHWAITE 

The House of Falling Leaves 42 

The Watchers 42 

White Magic: An Ode 43 

The Arsenal of the Lord 45 

T.TOT.TR PINCKNEY HILT. 

The Teacher 46 

Tuskegee - 46 
ANGELINA W. GRIMKE 

A Winter Twilight 47 

For the Candle Light 47 
When the Green Lies Over 

the Earth 48 

Tenebris 49 

The -Black Finger 49 

BENJAMIN BRAWLEY 

My Hero 50 

ANNE SPENCER 

Life-Long, Poor Browning 50 

Letter to My Sister 51 

At the Carnival 52 

Lines to a Nasturtium 53 

For Jim, Easter Eve 54 

EFFDE LEE NEWSOME 

Morning Light 55 

Arctic Tern in a Museum 56 

Little Birches 56 

GEORGIA DOUGLAS JOHNSON 

The Heart of a Woman 57 

Youth 57 

Remember 57 

The Suppliant 58 



Old Black Men 

Interracial 

I Closed My Shutters Fast 

Last Night 
Recessional 
My Little Dreams 
FENTON JOHNSON 
Rulers 

The Banjo Player 
The Scailet Woman 
Tired 
Aunt Jane Allen 

I Die 

Lonely Mother 
75 TJwtf A-Walking 
in the Corn? 

JESSIE REDMOND FAUSET 
Enigma 

La Vie Cest La Vie 
Dead Fires 
Oblivion 

BINGA DISMOND 



Quo 
At Early Morn 

JEAN TOOMER 

Song of the Son 
Beehive 
Evening Song 
Georgia Dusk 

JOSEPH S. COTTER, JR. 
Supplication 
And W/ia* SMZ You Say? 

MELVIN B. TOLSON 
Dark Symphony 

FRANK HORNE 

On Seeing Two "Brown Boys 

in a Catholic Church 
Kid Stuff 



58 
59 

59 
60 

60 

61 
61 
61 
62 
62 
63 
63 

64 

65 
65 

66 
67 

67 
68 

68 
69 
70 
70 

71 

72 

72 



76 

77 



CONTENTS 



xtii 



Toast 78 
Letters Found Near a Suicide 79 

MAECUS B. CHRISTIAN 

The Craftsman 83 
McDonogh Day in New Orleans 84 

LEWIS ALEXANDER 

Nocturne Varial 84 

Dream Song 85 

Transformation 85 

STERLING A. BROWN 

After Winter 86 

Old Lem 87 

"Foreclosure 89 

Remembering Nat Turner 90 

Sister Lou 92 

CLARISSA SCOTT DELANY 

The Mask 94 

Solace 94 

Joy 96 

Interim 96 

LANGSTON HUGHES 

I, too, Sing America 97 

Dream Variation 97 

T/ie Weary BZwes 98 

Little Green Tree Blues 99 

Personal 100 

Havana Dreams 100 

Harlem Sweeties 101 

Afro-American Fragment 102 

Crow 103 

Song /or a Darfc GirZ 103 

Merry-Go-Round 104 

Mother to Son 104 

The Negro Speaks o/ Rivers 105 
Let America Be America Again 106 

GWENDOLYN B. BENNETT 

Sonnets 109 
Lines Written at the Grave 

of Alexandre Dumas 110 



ARNA BONTEMPS 

A Black Man Talks of Reaping 110 

Miracles 111 

Nocturne at Bethesda 111 

Southern Mansion 113 

Length of Moon 114 

The Return 114 

Idolatry 116 

CZose Your Et/es/ 116 

Golgotha Is a Mountain 117 

A Note of Humility 119 

Tne Dai/breakers 119 

DOROTHY VENA JOHNSON 

Epitaph for a Bigot 120 

Green Valley 120 

COUNTEE CULLEN 

Heritage 121 

For a Poet 125 

Simon the Cyrenian Speaks 125 

The Wise 126 

T/iat Bright Chimeric Beast 126 

For a Lady I Know 128 

Incident 128 

Saturday's Child 128 

Fruit o/ t/ie Flower 129 
"Youth Sings a Song of Rosebuds 130 

TAe Loss o/ Love 131 

Yet Do I Marvel 132 

From the Dark Tower 132 

JONATHAN HENDERSON BROOKS 

The Resurrection 133 

My Angel 134 

And! One Shall Live in Two 135 

Muse in Late November 135 

She Said ... 136 

DONALD JEFFREY HAYES 

Poet 137 

Prescience 137 



xiv CONTENTS 

Haven 

Appoggiatura 

Benediction 

FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS 
Four Glimpses of Night 
I Sing No New Songs 
Robert Whitmore 
Flowers of Darkness 

ARTEL WILLIAMS HOLLOWAY 
Northboun 

WARING CUNEY 
Conception 
No Images 
Finis 

BurioZ o/ the Young Looe 
Tfo Death Bed 
Grat?e 
Lame Man and the Blind Man 

EDWARD SILVERA 
Forgotten Dreams 
On the Death of a Child 

HELENS JOHNSON 
Summer Matures 
Fulfillment 
Magalu 

Remember Not 
Invocation 



RICHARD WRIGHT 

I Haoe Seen Black Hands 
Between the World and Me 

CHARLES ENOCH WHEELER 

Adjuration 
Tumult 

PAULI MURRAY 

Witfiout Name 

WESLEY CUR1RIGHT 
Hear* of the Woods 



138 
138 
140 

141 
142 
143 
143 

144 

145 
145 
146 
146 
147 
148 
149 

150 
150 

150 
151 
152 
153 
153 
154 

154 
156 

158 
158 

159 
159 



DAVID WADSWORTH CANNON, JR. 

Freedom in Mah Soul 160 

Western Town 160 

HERBERT CLARK JOHNSON 

A Boys Need 161 

Crossing a Creek 161 

WiZZotz; Bend and Weep 161 

On Calvary's Lonely Hill ' 162 

BEATRICE M. MURPHY 

The Letter 162 

ROBERT E. HAYDEN 

O Daedalus Fly Away Home 163 
Homage to the Empress 

of the Blues 164 

Letter from the South 164 

A Ballad of Remembrance 165 
A Photograph of Isadora Duncan 167 

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik 167 

Runagate Runagate 168 

Frederick Douglass 171 

M. COLLINS 

GifZ 172 

OWEN DODSON 

Six O'clock 172 

Rag DoH and Summer Birds 173 

Counterpoint 174 

Epitaph for a Negro Woman 174 

T/ie Decision 175 
Poems for My Brother Kenneth 176 

MARGARET WALKER 

October Journey 176 

MoZZt/ Means 178 

We Have Been Believers 180 

Harriet Tubman 181 

For My People 186 

For Mary McLeod Bethune 188 

GWENDOLYN BROOKS 

Kitchenette Building 188 



Of DeWitt Williams on His 

Way to Lincoln Cemetery 189 

The Old-Marrieds 190 

Love Note II: Flags 190 

The Birth in a Narrow Room 191 

Mentors 191 

Piano After War 192 
CATHARINE CATER 

Here and Now 192 

HELEN JOHNSON COLLINS 

To an Avenue Sport 193 

MYEON O'HIGGINS 

Blues for Bessie 194 

Two Lean Cats 196 

Young Poet 196 

Sunset Horn 197 

BRUCE MCM. WRIGHT 

Journey to a Parallel 200 



CONTENTS xv 

The African Affair 201 

ALFRED A. DUCKETT 

Portrait Philippines 202 

Sonnet 202 

M. CARL HOLMAN 

Song 203 

Notes for a Movie Script 203 

Letter Across Doubt 

and Distance 204 

And on This Shore 205 

NAOMI LONG WITHERSPOON 

Refugee 207 

RUSSELL ATKINS 

Poem 206 

BETTE DARCIE LATIMER 

For William Edward Burghardt 
DuBois on His Eightieth 
Birthday 208 



2. TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 



WALT WHITMAN 

The Runaway Slave 213 

The Wounded Person 213 

The Drayman 214 

Ethiopia Saluting the Colors 214 

WILLIAM BLAKE 

The Little Black Boy 215 

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING 
The Runaway Slave 

at Pilgrim's Point 216 

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH 

To Toussaint L'Ouverture 226 



EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON 
Toussaint L'Ouverture 



227 



HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW 
The Slave's Dream 234 

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITHER 

The Farewell 236 



JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL 
Stanzas on Freedom 



HERMAN MELVILLE 
"Formerly a Slave" 

ALICE CORBIN 

Echoes of Childhood 

PERIENT TROTT 
Negro Spiritual 

VACHEL LINDSAY 
The Congo 



238 



EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN 

How Old Brown 

Took Harpers Ferry 239 

STEPHEN VINCENT BENET 

John Browns Prayer 243 

SELDEN RODMAN 
Harpers Ferry 



245 
246 
247 
248 
250 



xvi CONTENTS 








HART CRANE 




CARL SANDBURG 




Black Tambourine 


254 


Mammy Hums 


287 


JOHN GOtTLD FLETCHER 




Jazz Fantasia 


287 


Elegy on a Nordic White 




ELIZABETH BISHOP 




Protestant 


255 


Songs for a Colored Singer 


288 


RTDGELY TORRENCE 




IRMA WASSALL 




The Bird and the Tree 


257 


Singing in the Dark 


292 


WILLIAM ELLERY TJEONARD 




SELDEN RODMAN 




The Lynching Bee 


259 


On a Picture by Pippin, 




KENNETH PATCHEN 




Called "The Den' 


292 


Nice Day for a Lynching 


272 


Daphne 


293 


MAXWELL, BODENHEIM 




Norris Dam 


294 


Negroes 


272 


SIDNEY ALEXANDER 




Lynched Negro 


273 


The Castle 


294 


Poem to Negroes and Whites 


274 


WITTER BYNNER 




KAY BOYLE 




Defeat 


295 


A Communication 
to Nancy Cunard 


275 


WILLIAM ROSE BENET 
The Strong Swimmer 


295 


MURIEL RUKEYSER 








The Trial 


280 


DON WEST 








My South 


297 


A. B. MAGIL 








They Are Ours! 


282 


KENNETH PORTER 








Street Scene-1946 


299 


KARL SHAPIRO 








Recapitulations 
The Southerner 


283 
284 


JOSEPHINE MILES 
Government Injunction 


300 


HERVEY ALLEN 




ST. CLAIR MCKELWAY 




Upstairs Downstairs 


285 


Boogie- Woogie Ballads 


300 


DU ROSE HEYWARD 




SIDNEY ALEXANDER 




"Porgy; Maria and Bess' 


286 


Lenox Avenue 


304 


3. THE CARIBBEAN 








JAMAICA 




Lizard 


311 


STEPHANIE ORMSBY 




WALTER ADOLPHE ROBERTS 




The Caribbean 


309 


Boyhood Etchings 


311 


TOM REDCAM 




The Captains 


312 


San Gloria 


309 


San Francisco 


313 


AGNES MAXWELL-HALL 




Villanelle of Washington Square 


313 


Jamaica Market 


310 


ViUanelle of the Living Pan 


314 



Peacocks 

Vieux Carre 

On a Monument to Marti 

The Maroon Girl 
GEORGE CAMPBELL 

Litany 
K. E. INGRAM 

Lizard 
LOUIS SIMPSON 

Nine O'clock 
P. M. SHERLOCK 

Dinner Party, 1940 
BASIL MCFARLANE 

The Final Man 
J. E. CLARE MCFARLANE 

On National Vanity 
CONSTANCE HOLLAR 

The Caged Mongoose 

ROGER MAIS 
I, Remembering 

UNA MARSON 
Hunted 
Nightfall 

VIVIAN L. VIRTUE 
The Gleaner 
Atlantic Moonrise 
To Claude McKay 

CLAUDE MCKAY 

Tne Tropics in New York 

After the Winter 

Heritage 

Spring in New Hampshire 

To O. E. A. 

A Song o/ */ie Moon 

Harlem Shadows 

America 

W/wte Houses 

If We Must Die 

Baptism 



320 



322 
323 

324 
325 

325 
326 
326 

327 
327 
328 
329 
329 
330 
331 
331 
332 
333 
333 



CONTENTS xvii 

315 Russian Cathedral 334 

316 Flame-Heart 334 

316 H . jx CARBERRY 

317 Nature 335 
I Shall Remember 336 

317 Return 338 

318 BRITISH GUIANA 
A. j. SEYMOUR 

319 Over Guiana, Clouds 338 

320 BRITISH HONDURAS 

RAYMOND BARROW 



There Is a Mystic Splendor 345 



321 BARBADOS 



346 
346 

347 



348 
349 



H. A. VAUGHAN 

Nocturne 

The Old Convict 
FRANK A. COLLYMORE 

In Memoriam 

TRINIDAD 

HAROLD TELEMAQUE 

Roots 
Adina 

HAITI 

OSWALD DURAND 

Choucoune 350 

The Black Mans Son 352 

If 353 

ISAAC TOUSSAINT-L'OUVERTURE 
Farewell 353 

LOUIS MORPEAU 

To Madame la Duchesse 
de Bauffremont 354 

IGNACE NAU 
Belle-de-Nuit 355 



xviii 



CONTENTS 



LUC GBIMABD 

AmitiS Amoureuse 355 

PHTT.IPPE THOBY-MARCKT.TN 

Elegies 356 

CHRISTIAN WERLKCGH 

Poet of Farewell 358 

NORMIL SYLVAIN 

A Negro Sings 359 

DURACINE VAVAL 

The Mangoes 360 

EMTLE ROXJMER 

The Peasant Declares His Love 361 
CHARLES F. PRESSOIR 

La Mambo Dans Le Hounfort 361 

Country Graveyard 363 

JACQUES ROUMAIN 

When the Tom-Tom Beats . . . 364 
Langston Hughes 364 

Guinea 365 

ROUSSAN CAMUXE 

NedjS 366 

JEAN BRIERRE 

Harlem 369 

MARTINIQUE 

AIME CESAIRE 

Memorandum on My Martinique 370 

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 
TRANSLATORS 
AUTHOR INDEX 
FIRST LINE INDEX 



FRENCH GUIANA 

LEON DAMAS 

Poems 371 

CUBA 

REGINO PEDROSO 

Opinions of the New Chinese 

Student 372 

NICOLAS GUILLEN 

Cane 374 

Sightseers in a Courtyard 374 

Dead Soldier 376 

Wake for Papa Montero 377 

Two Weeks 379 

Proposition 380 

Barren Stone 380 

Federico 381 

PLACEDO 

Farewell To My Mother 383 

AFRICA 

AQUAH LALUAH 

Nativity 384 

The Serving Girl 385 

The Souls of Black and White 385 

389 
411 
415 
421 



1 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 



BARS FIGHT 
by Lucy Terry 



August 'twas the twenty fifth 

Seventeen hundred forty-six 

The Indians did in ambush lay 

Some very valient men to slay 

The names of whom I'll not leave out 

Samuel Allen like a hero f out 

And though he was so brave and bold 

His face no more shall we behold. 

Eleazer Hawks was killed outright 

Before he had time to fight 

Before he did the Indians see 

Was shot and killed immediately. 

Oliver Amsden he was slain 

Which caused his friends much grief and pain. 

Samuel Amsden they found dead 

Not many rods off from his head. 

Adonijah Gillet we do hear 

Did lose his life which was so dear. 

John Saddler fled across the water 

And so excaped the dreadful slaughter. 

Eunice Allen see the Indians comeing 

And hoped to save herself by running 

And had not her petticoats stopt her 

The awful creatures had not cotched her 

And tommyhawked her on the head 

And left her on the ground for dead. 

Young Samuel Allen, Oh! lack a-day 

Was taken and carried to Canada. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



AN EVENING THOUGHT 

Salvation by Christ, With Penitential Cries 
by Jupiter Hammon 

Salvation comes by Christ alone, 

The only Son of God; 

Redemption now to every one, 

That love his holy Word. 

Dear Jesus we would fly to Thee, 

And leave off every Sin, 

Thy tender Mercy well agree; 

Salvation from our King; 

Salvation comes now from the Lord, 

Our victorious King. 

His holy Name be well ador'd, 

Salvation surely bring. 

Dear Jesus give thy Spirit now, 

Thy Grace to every Nation, 

That han't the Lord to whom we bow, 

The Author of Salvation. 

Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry, 

Give us the Preparation; 

Turn not away thy tender Eye; 

We see thy true Salvation. 

Salvation comes from God we know, 

The true and only One; 

It's well agreed and certain true, 

He gave his only Son. 

Lord hear our penitential Cry: 

Salvation from above; 

It is the Lord that doth supply, 

With his Redeeming Love. 

Dear Jesus by thy precious Blood, 

The World Redemption have: 

Salvation now comes from the Lord, 

He being thy captive slave. 

Dear Jesus let the Nations cry, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 

And all the People say, 

Salvation comes from Christ on high, 

Haste on Tribunal Day. 

We cry as Sinners to the Lord, 

Salvation to obtain; 

It is firmly fixt his holy Word, 

Ye shall not cry in vain. 

Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry, 

And make our Lamentation: 

O let our Prayers ascend on high; 

We felt thy Salvation. 

Lord turn our dark benighted Souls; 

Give us a true Motion, 

And let the Hearts of aU the World, 

Make Christ their Salvation. 

Ten Thousand Angels cry to Thee, 

Yea louder than the Ocean. 

Thou art the Lord, we plainly see; 

Thou art the true Salvation. 

Now is the Day, excepted Time; 

The Day of Salvation; 

Increase your Faith, do not repine: 

Awake ye every Nation. 

Lord unto whom now shall we go, 

Or see a safe Abode; 

Thou hast the Word Salvation too 

The only Son of God. 

Ho! every one that hunger hath, 

Or pineth after me, 

Salvation be thy leading Staff, 

To set the Sinner free. 

Dear Jesus unto Thee we fly; 

Depart, depart from Sin, 

Salvation doth at length supply, 

The Glory of our King. 

Come ye Blessed of the Lord, 

Salvation greatly given; 

O turn your Hearts, accept the Word, 

Your souls are fit for Heaven. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Dear Jesus we now turn to Thee, 

Salvation to obtain; 

Our Hearts and Souls do meet again, 

To magnify thy Name. 

Come holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove, 

The Object of our Care; 

Salvation doth increase our Love; 

Our Hearts hath felt thy fear. 

Now Glory be to God on High, 

Salvation high and low; 

And thus the Soul on Christ rely, 

To Heaven surely go. 

Come Blessed Jesus, Heavenly Dove, 

Accept Repentance here; 

Salvation give, with tender Love; 

Let us with Angels share. Finis. 



HIS EXCELLENCY GENERAL WASHINGTON 
by Phillis Wheatley 

Celestial choir! enthron'd in realms of light, 
Columbia s scenes of glorious toils I write. 
While freedom's cause her anxious breast alarms, 
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms. 
See mother earth her offspring's fate bemoan, 
And nations gaze at scenes before unknown! 
See the bright beams of heaven's revolving light 
Involved in sorrows and the veil of night! 

The goddess comes, she moves divinely fair, 
Olive and laurel binds her golden hair: 
Wherever shines this native of the skies, 
Unnumber'd charms and recent graces rise. 
Muse! how propitious while my pen relates 
How pour her armies through a thousand gates, 
As when Eolus heaven's fair face deforms, 
Enwrapp'd in tempest and a night of storms; 
Astonish'd ocean feels the wild uproar, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SA. 

The refluent surges beat the sounding shore; 
Or thick as leaves in Autumn's golden reign, 
Such, and so many, moves the warrior's train. 
In bright array they seek the work of war, 
Where high unfurl'd the ensign waves in air. 
Shall I go to Washington their praise recite? 
Enough thou know'st them in the fields of fight. 
Thee, first in peace and honours, we demand 
The grace and glory of thy martial band. 
Fam'd for thy valour, for thy virtues more, 
Hear every tongue thy guardian and implore! 

One century scarce performed its destined round, 
When Gallic powers Columbia s fury found; 
And so may you, whoever dares disgrace 
The land of freedom's heaven defended race! 
Fir'd are the eyes of nations on the scales, 
For in their hopes Columbia's arm prevails. 
Anon Britannia droops the pensive head, 
While round increase the rising hills of dead. 
Ah! cruel blindness to Columbia's state! 
Lament thy thirst of boundless power too late. 

Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side, 
Thy ev'ry action let the goddess guide. 
A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine, 
With gold unfading, Washington! be thine. 



ON IMAGINATION 
by Phillis Wheatley 



Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, 

How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp by theel 

Thy wond'rous acts in beauteous order stand, 

And all attest how potent is thine hand. 

From Helicons refulgent heights attend 
Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend: 
To tell her glories with a faithful tongue, 
Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song. 



8 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies, 
Till some lov'd object strikes her wand'ring eyes 
Whose silken fetters all the senses bind, 
And soft captivity involves the mind. 

Imagination! who can sing thy force? 
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course? 
Soaring through air to find the bright abode? 
Th* empyreal palace of the thund'ring God, 
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind, 
And leave the rolling universe behind: 
From star to star the mental optics rove, 
Measure the skies, and range the realms above. 
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole, 
Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul. 

Though Winter frowns to Fancy's raptur'd eyes 
The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise; 
The frozen deeps may break their iron bands, 
And bid their waters murmur o'er the sands. 
Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign, 
And with her flowYy riches deck the plain; 
Sylvanus may diffuse his honors round, 
Aiid all the forest may with leaves be crown'd: 
Show'rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose, 
And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose. 

Such is thy pow'r, nor are thine orders vain, 
O thou the leader of the mental train: 
In full perfection all thy works are wrought, 
And thine the sceptre o'er the realms of thought. 
Before thy throne the subject-passions bow, 
Of subject-passions sovereign ruler thou: 
At thy command joy rushes on the heart, 
And through the glowing veins the spirits dart. 

Fancy might now her silken pinions try 
To rise from earth, and sweep th' expanse on high; 
From Tithons bed now might Aurora rise, 
Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dyes, 
While a pure stream of light overflows the skies. 
The monarch of the day I might behold, 
And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 

But I reluctant leave the pleasing views. 
Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse; 
Winter austere forbids me to aspire, 
And northern tempests damp the rising fire; 
They chill the tides of Fancy's flowing sea. 
Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay. 



ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY 1 
by George Moses Horton 

Alas! and am I born for this, 

To wear this slavish chain? 
Deprived of all created bliss, 

Through hardship, toil and pain! 

How long have I in bondage lain, 

And languished to be free! 
Alas! and must I still complain 

Deprived of liberty. 

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief 

This side the silent grave- 
To soothe the pain to quell the grief 

And anguish of a slave? 

Come, Liberty, thou cheerful sound, 

Roll through my ravished ears! 
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned, 

And drive away my fears. 

Say unto foul oppression, Cease: 

Ye tyrants rage no more, 
And let the joyful trump of peace, 

Now bid the vassal soar. 

^rom Poems of an Exile, by George M. Horton, copyright, 1931. Reprinted by 
permission of the Bobbs-Merrill Company, 



TO THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Soar on the pinions of that dove 
Which long has cooed for thee, 

And breathed her notes from Afric's grove, 
The sound of Liberty. 

Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize, 

So often sought by blood 
We crave thy sacred sun to rise, 

The gift of nature's God! 

Bid Slavery hide her haggard face, 

And barbarism fly: 
I scorn to see the sad disgrace 

In which enslaved I lie. 

Dear Liberty! upon thy breast, 

I languish to respire; 
And like the Swan unto her nest, 

Td to thy smiles retire. 

Oh, blest asylum heavenly balm! 

Unto thy boughs I flee 
And in thy shades the storm shall calm, 

With songs of Liberty! 



THE SLAVE AUCTION 
by Frances E. W. Harper 



The sale began young girls were there, 
Defenceless in their wretchedness, 

Whose stifled sobs of deep despair 
Revealed their anguish and distress. 

And mothers stood with streaming eyes, 
And saw their dearest children sold; 

Unheeded rose their bitter cries, 
While tyrants bartered them for gold. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. II 

And woman, with her love and truth 

For these in sable forms may dwell 
Gaz'd on the husband of her youth, 

With anguish none may paint or tell. 

And men, whose sole crime was their hue, 

The impress of their Maker's hand, 
And frail and shrinking children, too, 

Were gathered in that mournful band. 

Ye who have laid your love to rest, 

And wept above their lifeless clay, 
Know not the anguish of that breast, 

Whose lov'd are rudely torn away. 

Ye may not know how desolate 

Are bosoms rudely forced to part, 
And how a dull and heavy weight 

Will press the life-drops from the heart. 



LET THE LIGHT ENTER 
by Frances E. W. Harper 



"Light! more light! the shadows deepen 

And my life is ebbing low, 
Throw the windows widely open: 

Light! more light! before I go. 

"Softly let the balmy sunshine 

Play around my dying bed, 
E'er the dimly lighted valley 

I with lonely feet must tread. 

"Light! more light! for Death is weaving 
Shadows 'round my waning sight, 

And I fain would gaze upon him 
Through a stream of earthly light." 



12 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Not for greater gifts of genius; 

Not for thoughts more grandly bright 
All the dying poet whispers 

Is a prayer for light, more light. 

Heeds he not the gathered laurels, 
Fading slowly from his sight; 

All the poet's aspirations 

Center in that prayer for light. 

Gracious Saviour, when life's day-dreams 
Melt and vanish from the sight, 

May our dim and longing vision 

Then be blessed with light, more light. 



EPIGRAM 2 

by Armand Lanusse 

"Do you not wish to renounce the Devil?" 
Asked a good priest of a woman of evil 
Who had so many sins that every year 
They cost her endless remorse and fear. 
"I wish to renounce him forever," she said, 
"But that I may lose every urge to be bad, 
Before pure grace takes me in hand. 
Shouldn't I show my daughter how to get a man?"' 

L. H. 



VERSE WRITTEN IN THE ALBUM OF MADEMOISELLE 8 

by Pierre Dalcour 

The evening star that in the vaulted skies 
Sweetly sparkles, gently flashes, 
To me is less lovely than a glance of your eyes 
Beneath their brown lashes. 

L. H. 

^Translated by Langston Hughes. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 13 



THE FEET OF JUDAS 

by George Marion McClellan 



Christ washed the feet of Judas! 

The dark and evil passions of his soul, 

His secret plot, and sordidness complete, 

His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole, 

And still in love he stooped and washed his feet. 

Christ washed the feet of Judas! 

Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him, 

His bargain with the priest, and more than this, 

In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim, 

Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss. 

Christ washed the feet of Judas! 
And so ineffable his love 'twas meet, 
That pity fill his great forgiving heart, 
And tenderly to wash the traitor's feet, 
Who in his Lord had basely sold his part. 

Christ washed the feet of Judas! 

And thus a girded servant, self -abased, 

Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven 

Was ever too great to wholly be effaced, 

And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven. 

And so if we have ever felt the wrong 
Of trampled rights, of caste, it matters not, 
What e'er the soul has felt or suffered long, 
Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot: 
Christ washed the feet of Judas. 



U THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE WAY-SIDE WELL 4 
by Joseph S. Cotter, Sr. 

A Fancy halts my feet at the way-side well. 

It is not to drink, for they say the water is brackish. 

It is not to tryst, for a heart at the mile's end beckons me on. 

It is not to rest, for what feet could be weary when a heart at the mile's 

end keeps time with their tread? 

It is not to muse, for the heart at the mile's end is food for my being. 
I will question the well for my secret by dropping a pebble into it. 
Ah, it is dry. 
Strike lightning to the road, my feet, for hearts are like wells. You may 

not know they are dry 'til you question their depths. 
Fancies clog the way to Heaven, and saints miss their crown. 



THE TRAGEDY OF PETE 5 
by Joseph N S. Cotter, Sr. 

There was a man 

Whose name was Pete, 
And he was a buck 

From his head to his feet. 

He loved a dollar, 

But hated a dime; 
And so was poor 

Nine-tenths of the time. 

The Judge said "Pete, 

What of your wife?" 
And Pete replied 

"She lost her life." 

*' B From Caroling Dusk, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1927, by Harper & 
Brothers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 15 

"Pete/' said the Judge, 

"Was it lost in a row? 
Tell me quick, 

And tell me how." 

Pete straightened up 

With a hie and a sigh, 
Then looked the Judge 

Full in the eye. 

"O, Judge, my wife 

Would never go 
To a Sunday dance 

Or a movie show. 

"But I went, Judge, 

Both day and night, 
And came home broke 

And also tight. 

"The moon was up, 

My purse was down, 
And I was the bully 

Of the bootleg town. 

*1 was crooning a lilt 

To corn and rye 
For the loop in my legs 

And the fight in my eye. 

"I met my wife; 

She was wearing a frown, 
And catechising 

Her Sunday gown. 

"X> Pete, O Pete 

She cried aloud, 
'The Devil is falling 

Right out of a cloud/ 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

"I looked straight up 

And fell flat down 
And a Ford machine 

Pinned my head to the ground. 

"The Ford moved on, 
And my wife was in it; 

And I was sober, 
That very minute. 

"For my head was bleeding, 
My heart was a-flutter; 

And the moonshine within me 
Was tipping the gutter. 

'The Ford, it faster 

And faster sped 
Till it dipped and swerved 

And my wife was dead. 

Two bruised men lay 
In a hospital ward- 
One seeking vengeance, 
The other the Lord. 

"He said to me: 

*Your wife was drunk, 

You are crazy, 
And my Ford is junk/ 

*1 raised my knife 

And drove it in 
At the top of his head 

And the point of his chin. 

"O Judge, O Judge, 
If the State has a chair, 

Please bind me in it 
And roast me there." 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 17 

There was a man 

Whose name was Pete, 
And he welcomed death 

From his head to his feet. 



MISS MELERLEE 

by John Wesley HoIIoway 



Hello dar, Miss Melerlee! 
Oh, you're pretty sight to see! 
Sof brown cheek, an' smilin' face, 
An' billowy form chuck full o' grace 
De sweetes* gal Ah evah see, 
An' Ah wush dat you would marry me! 

Hello, Miss Melerlee! 

Hello dar, Miss Melerlee! 
You're de berry gal fo' me! 
Pearly teef , an' shinin' hair, 
An* silky arm so plump an' bare! 
Ah lak yo' walk, Ah lak yo' clothes, 
An' de way Ah love yougoodness knows! 

Hello, Miss Melerlee! 

Hello dar, Miss Melerlee! 
Dat's not yo' name, but it ought to be! 
Ah nevah seed yo' face befo' 
An' lakly won't again no mo'; 
But yo' sweet smile will follow me 
Q'ar into eternity! 

Farewell, Miss Melerlee! 



18 THE POETRY OF THE NGRO 



A LITANY AT ATLANTA 6 

Done at Atlanta, 

in the Day of Death, 1906 
By William Edward Burghardt DuBois 

O Silent God, Thou whose voice afar in mist and mystery hath left 
our ears an-hungered in these fearful days 
Hear us, good Lord! 

Listen to us, Thy children: our faces dark with doubt are made a 
mockery in Thy sanctuary. With uplifted hands we front Thy heaven, 
O God crying: 

We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord! 

We are not better than our fellows, Lord, we are but weak and human 
men. When our devils do deviltry, curse Thou the doer and the deed: 
curse them as we curse them, do to them all and more than ever they 
have done to innocence and weakness, to womanhood and home. 

Have mercy upon us, miserable sirmers! 

And yet whose is the deeper guilt? Who made these devils? Who 
nursed them in crime and fed them on injustice? Who ravished and 
debauched their mothers and their grandmothers? Who bought and 
sold their crime, and waxed fat and rich on public iniquity? 

Thou knowest, good God! 

Is this Thy Justice, O Father, that guile be easier than innocence, 
and the innocent crucified for the guilt of the untouched guilty? 
Justice, O Judge of men! 

Wherefore do we pray? Is not the God of the fathers dead? Have 
not seers seen in Heaven's halls Thine hearsed and lifeless form stark 
amidst the black and rolling smoke of sin, where all along bow bitter 
forms of endless dead? 

Awake, Thou that sleepest! 

"From Darkwater, by W. E. Burghardt DuBois, copyright, 1920, by Harcourt, 
Brace and Company, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A, 19 

Thou are not dead, but flown afar, up hills of endless light, thru 
blazing corridors of suns, where worlds do swing of good and gentle 
men, of women strong and free far from the cozenage, black hypoc- 
risy and chaste prostitution of this shameful speck of dust! 

Turn again, O Lord, leave us not to perish in our sin! 

From lust of body and lust of blood 
Great God, deliver us! 

From lust of power and lust of gold, 
Great God, deliver us! 

From the leagued lying of despot and of brute, 
Great God, deliver us! 

A city lay in travail, God our Lord, and from her loins sprang twin 
Murder and Black Hate. Red was the midnight; clang, crack and cry 
of death and fury filled the air and trembled underneath the stars when 
church spires pointed silently to Thee. And all this was to sate the 
greed of greedy men who hide behind the veil of vengeance! 

Bend us Thine ear, O Lord! 

In the pale, still morning we looked upon the deed. We stopped our 
ears and held our leaping hands, but they did they not wag their heads 
and leer and cry with bloody jaws: Cease from Crime! The word was 
mockery, for thus they train a hundred crimes while we do cure one. 

Turn again our captivity, O Lord! 

Behold this maimed and broken thing; dear God, it was an humble 
black man who toiled and sweat to save a bit from the pittance paid 
him. They told him: Work and Rise. He worked. Did this man sin? 
Nay, but some one told how some one said another did one whom he 
had never seen nor known. Yet for that man's crime this man lieth 
maimed and murdered, his wife naked to shame, his children, to 
poverty and evil. 

Hear us, O Heavenly Father! 



Doth not this justice of hell stink in Thy nostrils, O God? How long 
shall the mounting flood of innocent blood roar in Thine ears and 



20 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

pound in our hearts for vengeance? Pile the pale frenzy of blood- 
crazed brutes who do such deeds high on Thine altar, Jehovah Jireh, 
and burn it in hell forever and forever! 

Forgive us, good Lord; we know not what we say! 

Bewildered we are, and passion-tost, mad with the madness of a 
mobbed and mocked and murdered people; straining at the armposts 
of Thy Throne, we raise our shackled hands and charge Thee, God, 
by the bones of our stolen fathers, by the tears of our dead mothers, 
by the very blood of Thy crucified Christ: What meaneth this? Tell 
us the Plan; give us the Sign! 

Keep not Thou silence, O God! 

Sit no longer blind, Lord God, deaf to our prayer and dumb to our 
dumb suffering. Surely, Thou too art not white, O Lord, a pale, blood- 
less, heartless thing? 

Ah! Christ of dl the Pities! 

Forgive the thought! Forgive these wild, blasphemous words. Thou 
art still the God of our black fathers, and in Thy soul's soul sit some 
soft darkenings of the evening, some shadowings of the velvet night. 

But whisper speak call, great God, for Thy silence is white terror 
to our hearts! The way, O God, show us the way and point us the path. 

Whither? North is greed and South is blood; within, the coward, and 
without the liar. Whither? To death? 

Amen! Welcome dark sleep! 

Whither? To life? But not this life, dear God, not this. Let the cup 
pass from us, tempt us not beyond our strength, for there is that clam- 
oring and clawing within, to whose voice we would not listen, yet 
shudder lest we must, and it is red, Ah! God! It is a red and awful 
shape. 

Selah! 

In yonder East trembles a star. 

Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord! 

Thy will, O Lord, be done! 
Kyrie Eleison! 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 21 

Lord, we have done these pleading, wavering words. 
We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord! 

We bow our heads and hearken soft to the sobbing of women and 

little children. 
We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord! 

Our voices sink in silence and in night. 
Hear us, good Lord! 

In night, O God of a godless landl 
Amen! 

In silence, O Silent God. 
Selahl 



PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR 
by James David Corrothers 

He came, a youth, singing in the dawn 
Of a new freedom, glowing o'er his lyre, 
Refining, as with great Apollo's fire, 
His people's gift of song. And thereupon, 

This Negro singer, come to Helicon, 

Constrained the masters, listening to admire, 
And roused a race to wonder and aspire, 
Gazing which way their honest voice was gone, 

With ebon face uplit of glory's crest. 

Men marveled at the singer, strong and sweet, 
Who brought the cabin's mirth, the tuneful night, 

But faced the morning, beautiful with light . 
To die while shadows yet fell toward the wast, 
And leave his laurels at his people's feet. 

Dunbar, no poet wears your laurels now; 
None rises, singing, from your race like you. 
Dark melodist, immortal, though the dew 
Fell early on the bays upon your brow, 



22 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And tinged with pathos every halcyon vow 
And brave endeavor. Silence o'er you threw 
Flowerets of love* Or, if an envious few 
Of your own people brought no garlands, how 

Could malice smite him whom the gods had crowned? 
If, like the meadow-lark, your flight was low, 
Your flooded lyrics half the hilltops drowned; 

A wide world heard you, and it loved you so, 
It stilled its heart to list the strains you sang, 
And o'er your happy songs its plaudits rang. 



AN INDIGNATION DINNER 7 
by James David Corrothers 

Dey was hard times jes fo' Christmas round our neighborhood one year; 
So we held a secret meetin', whah de white folks couldn't hear, 
To 'scuss de situation, an' to see what could be done 
Towa'd a fust-class Christmas dinneh an* a little Christmas fun. 



Rufus Green, who called de meetin', ris an' said: "In dis here town, 
An' throughout de land, de white folks is a'tryin' to keep us down/* 
S' 'e: "Dey bought us, sold us, beat us; now dey 'buse us 'ca'se we's free; 
But when dey tetch my stomach, dey's done gone too fur foh me! 

"Is I right?" "You sho is, Rufus!" roared a dozen hungry throats. 
"Ef you'd keep a mule a-wo'kin', don't you tamper wid his oats. 
Dat's sense," continued Rufus. "But dese white folks nowadays 
Has done got so close and stingy you can't live on what dey pays. 

"Here 'tis Christmas-time, an', folkses, I's indignant 'nough to choke. 
Whah's our Christmas dinneh comin' when we's mos' completely broke? 
I can't hahdly 'fo'd a toothpick an' a glass o' water. Mad? 
Say, I'm desp'ret! Dey jes better treat me nice, dese white folks had!" 

7 From Century Magazine, copyright, 1915, by the Century Company. Reprinted 
by permission of Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 23 

Well, dey Abused de white folks scan'lous, till old Pappy Simmons ris, 
Leanin* on his cane to s'pote him, on account his rheumatis', 
An* s* *e: "Chillun, whut's dat wintry wind a-sighin* th'ough de street 
'Bout yo* wasted summeh wages? But, no matter, we mus' eat 

"Now, I seed a beau'ful tuhkey on a certain gemmun's fahm. 
He*s a-growin* fat an' sassy, an* a~struttin* to a chahm. 
Chickens, sheeps, hogs, sweet pertaters all de craps is fine dis year; 
All we needs is a committee f oh to tote de goodies here." 

Well, we lit right in an* voted dat it was a gran' idee, 

An* de dinneh we had Christmas was worth trabblin' miles to see; 

An* we eat a full an' plenty, big an' little, great an' small, 

Not beca*se we was dishonest, but indignant, sah. Dat's alL 



O BLACK AND UNKNOWN BARDS 8 
by James Weldon Johnson 

O black and unknown bards of long ago, 
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire? 
How, in your darkness, did you come to know 
The power and beauty of the minstrels* lyre? 
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes? 
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long. 
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise 
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song? 

Heart of what slave poured out such melody 

As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains 

His spirit must have nightly floated free, 

Though still about his hands he felt his chains. 

Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye 

Saw chariot "swing low'*? And who was he 

That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh, 

"Nobody knows de trouble I see"? 

8 From St. Peter Relates an Incident, by James Weldon Johnson, oopyfi^lsA, 1917, 
1921, and 1935, by James Weldon Johnson. Reprinted by permission af Xhe Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 



24 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

What merely living clod, what captive thing, 
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope, 
And find within its deadened heart to sing 
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope? 
How did it catch that subtle undertone, 
That note in music heard not with the ears? 
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown, 
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears. 

Not that great German master in his dream 

Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars 

At the creation, ever heard a theme 

Nobler than "Go down, Moses." Mark its bars 

How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir 

The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung 

Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were 

That helped make history when Time was young. 

There is a wide, wide wonder in it all, 

That from degraded rest and servile toil 

The fiery spirit of the seer should call 

These simple children of the sun and soil. 

O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed, 

You-you alone, of all the long, long line 

Of those who've sung untaught, unknown, unnamed, 

Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine. 

You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings; 
No chant of bloody war, no exulting paean 
No arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings 
You touched in chord with music empyrean. 
You sang far better than you knew; the songs 
That for your listeners' hungry hearts sufficed 
Still live but more than this to you belongs: 
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 25 



FIFTY YEARS 9 

1863-1913 
by James Weldon Johnson 



On the Fiftieth Anniversary 

of the Signing 

of the Emancipation Proclamation 

O brothers mine, today we stand 
Where half a century sweeps our ken, 

Since God, through Lincoln's ready hand. 
Struck off our bonds and made us men. 

Just fifty years a winter's day 

As runs the history of a race; 
Yet, as we look back o'er the way, 

How distant seems our starting place! 

Look farther back! Three centuries! 

To where a naked, shivering score, 
Snatched from their haunts across the seas. 

Stood, wild-eyed, on Virginia's shore. 



For never let the thought arise 

That we are here on sufferance bare; 
Outcasts, asylumed 'neath these skies, 

And aliens without part or share. 

This land is ours by right of birth. 

This land is ours by right of toil; 
We helped to turn its virgin earth, 

Our sweat is in its fruitful soil. 

9 From St. Peter Relates an Incident, by James Weldon Johnson, copyright, 1917, 
1921, and 1935, by James Weldon Johnson. Reprinted by permission of The Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 



26 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Where once the tangled forest stood 

Where flourished once rank weed and thorn- 
Behold the path-traced, peaceful wood, 
The cotton white, the yellow corn. 

To gain these fruits that have been earned, 
To hold these fields that have been won, 

Our arms have strained, our backs have burned, 
Bent bare beneath a ruthless sun. 

That Banner which is now the type 

Of victory on field and flood- 
Remember, its first crimson stripe 

Was dyed by Attucks' willing blood. 

And never yet has come the cry- 
When that fair flag has been assailed 

For men to do, for men to die, 
That we have faltered or have failed. 

We've helped to bear it, rent and torn, 
Through many a hot-breath'd battle breeze 

Held in our hands, it has been borne 
And planted far across the seas. 

And never yet O haughty Land, 
Let us, at least, for this be praised 

Has one black, treason-guided hand 
Ever against that flag been raised. 

Then should we speak but servile words, 
Or shall we hang our heads in shame? 

Stand back of new-come foreign hordes, 
And fear our heritage to claim? 

No! stand erect and without fear, 

And for our foes let this suffice 
We've bought a rightful sonship here, 

And we have more than paid the price. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 27 



And yet, my brothers, well I know 
The tethered f eet, the pinioned wings, 

The spirit bowed beneath the blow, 
The heart grown faint from wounds and stings; 

The staggering force of brutish might, 
That strikes and leaves us stunned and dazed; 

The long, vain waiting through the night 
To hear some voice for justice raised. 

Full well I know the hour when hope 
Sinks dead, and round us everywhere 

Hangs stifling darkness, and we grope 
With hands uplifted in despair. 

Courage! Look out, beyond, and see 

The far horizon's beckoning span! 
Faith in your God-known destiny! 

We are a part of some great plan. 

Because the tongues of Garrison 
And Phillips now are cold in death, 

Think you their work can be undone? 
Or quenched the fires lit by their breath? 

Think you that John Brown's spirit stops? 

That Lovejoy was but idly slain? 
Or do you think those precious drops 

From Lincoln's heart were shed in vain? 

That for which millions prayed and sighed, 
That for which tens of thousands fought, 

For which so many freely died, 
God cannot let it come to naught. 



28 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE CREATION 10 

by James Weldon Johnson 

And God stepped out on space, 
And he looked around and said: 
I'm lonely- 
Ill make me a world. 

And far as the eye of God could see 
Darkness covered everything, 
Blacker than a hundred midnights 
Down in a cypress swamp. 

Then God smiled, 

And the light broke, 

And the darkness rolled up on one side, 

And the light stood shining on the other, 

And God said: That's good! 

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands, 

And God rolled the light around in His hands 

Until He made the sun; 

And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens. 

And the light that was left from making the sun 

God gathered up in a shining ball 

And flung against the darkness, 

Spangling the night with the moon and stars. 

Then down between 

The darkness and the light 

He hurled the world; 

And God said: That's good! 

* 

Then God himself stepped down 
And the sun was on His right hand, 
And the moon was on His left; 
The stars were clustered about His head, 

"From God's Trombones, by James Weldon Johnson; copyright, 1927, by The 
Viking Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission of The Viking Press, Inc., New York. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 29 

And the earth was under His feet. 
And God walked, and where He trod 
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out 
And bulged the mountains up. 

Then He stopped and looked and saw 
That the earth was hot and barren. 
So God stepped over to the edge of the world 
And He spat out the seven seas- 
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed 
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled 
And the waters above the earth came down, 
The cooling waters came down. 

Then the green grass sprouted, 

And the little red flowers blossomed, 

The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky, 

And the oak spread out his arms, 

The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground 3 

And the rivers ran down to the sea; 

And God smiled again, 

And the rainbow appeared, 

And curled itself around His shoulder. 

Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand 

Over the sea and over the land, 

And He said: Bring forth! Bring forth! 

And quicker than God could drop His hand, 

Fishes and fowls 

And beasts and birds 

Swam the rivers and the seas, 

Roamed the forests and the woods, 

And split the air with their wings. 

And God said: That's good! 

Then God walked around, 
And God looked around 
On all that He had made. 
He looked on His world 



30 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

With all its living things, 
And God said: I'm lonely still. 

Then God sat down- 
On the side of a hill where He could think; 
By a deep, wide river He sat down; 
With His head in His hands, 
God thought and thought, 
Till He thought: I'll make me a man! 

Up from the bed of the river 

God scooped the clay; 

And by the bank of the river 

He kneeled Him down; 

And there the great God Almighty 

Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky, 

Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night, 

Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand; 

This Great God, 

Like a mammy bending over her baby, 

Kneeled down in the dust 

Toiling over a lump of clay 

Till He shaped it in His own image; 

Then into it He blew the breath of life, 
And man became a living soul. 
Amen. Amen. 



THE GLORY OF THE DAY WAS IN HER FACE 11 
by James Weldon Johnson 

The glory of the day was in her face, 
The beauty of the night was in her eyes. 
And over all her loveliness, the grace 
Of Morning blushing in the early skies. 

^From St. Peter Relates an Incident, by James Weldon Johnson, copyright, 1917, 
1921, and 1935, by James Weldon Johnson. Reprinted by permission of The Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 31 

And in her voice, the calling of the dove; 
Like music of a sweet, melodious part. 
And in her smile, the breaking light of love; 
And all the gentle virtues in her heart. 

And now the glorious day, the beauteous night, 
The birds that signal to their mates at dawn, 
To my dull ears, to my tear-blinded sight 
Are one with all the dead, since she is gone. 



SENCE YOU WENT AWAY 12 
by James Weldon Johnson 

Seems lak to me de stars don't shine so bright, 
Seems lak to me de sun done loss his light, 
Seems lak to me der's nothin' goin' right, 
Sence you went away. 

Seems lak to me de sky ain't half so blue, 
Seems lak to me dat ev'ything wants you, 
Seems lak to me I don't know what to do, 
Sence you went away. 

Seems lak to me dat ev'ything is wrong, 
Seems lak to me de day's jes twice as long, 
Seems lak to me de bird's forgot his song, 
Sence you went away. 

Seems lak to me I jes can't he'p but sigh, 
Seems lak to me ma th'oat keeps gittin' dry, 
Seems lak to me a tear stays in my eye, 
Sence you went away. 

"From S*. Peter Relates an Incident, by James Weldon Johnson, copyright, 1917, 
1921, and 1935, by James Weldon Johnson. Reprinted by permission of The Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 



'32 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



MY CITY 13 

by James Weldon Johnson 

When I come down to sleep death's endless night, 
The threshold of the unknown dark to cross, 
What to me then will be the keenest loss, 
When this bright world blurs on my fading sight? 
Will it be that no more I shall see the trees 
Or smell the flowers or hear the singing birds 
Or watch the flashing streams or patient herds? 
No, I am sure it will be none of these. 

But, ah! Manhattan's sights and sounds, her smells, 

Her crowds, her throbbing force, the thrill that comes 

From being of her a part, her subtle spells, 

Her shining towers, her avenues, her slums 

O God! the stark, unutterable pity, 

To be dead, and never again behold my cityl 



LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING 14 
by James Weldon Johnson 

Lift every voice and sing 

Till earth and heaven ring, 

Hing with the harmonies of Liberty; 

Let our rejoicing rise 

High as the listening skies, 

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, 

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun 

Let us march on till victory is won. 



t. Peter Relates an Incident, by James Weldon Johnson, copyright, 1917, 
1921, and 1935, by James Weldon Johnson. Reprinted by permission of The Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 

"Copyright, Edward B. Marks Music Corporation. Used by permission. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S,A. 33 

Stony the road we trod, 

Bitter the chastening rod, 

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; 

Yet with a steady beat, 

Have not our weary feet 

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? 

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, 

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, 

Out from the gloomy past, 

Till now we stand at last 

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 

God of our weary years, 

God of our silent tears, 

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; 

Thou who has by Thy might 

Led us into the light, 

Keep us forever in the path, we pray. 

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, 

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; 

Shadowed beneath Thy hand, 

May we forever stand. 

True to our God, 

True to our native land. 



SYMPATHY 15 

by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

I know what the caged bird feels, alas! 

When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; 

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, 

And the river flows like a stream of glass; 

When the first bird sings and the first bud opes, 

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals 

I know what the caged bird feels! 

"From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, copyright, 189$, 1899, 
1905, 1913, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. 



34 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

I know why the caged bird beats his wing 
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars; 
For he must fly back to his perch and cling 
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing; 
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars 
And they pulse again with a keener sting 
I know why he beats his wing! 

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, 

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, 

When he beats his bars and he would be free; 

It is not a carol of joy or glee, 

But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core, 

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings 

I know why the caged bird sings! 



DAWN 16 

by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

An angel, robed in spotless white, 
Bent down and kissed the sleeping Night. 
Night woke to blush; the sprite was gone. 
Men saw the blush and called it Dawn. 



A NEGRO LOVE SONG 17 
by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Seen my lady home las' night, 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 
He!' huh ban' an' sque'z it tight, 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh, 
Seen a light gleam f om huh eye, 

M ' 17 From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, copyright, 1896 1899 
1905, 1913, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.5.A. 35 

An' a smile go flittin' by 
Jump back, honey, jump back. 

Hyeahd de win* blow thoo de pine. 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 
Mockingbird was singin' fine, 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 
An' my hea't was beatin' so, 
When I reached my lady's do*, 
Dat I couldn't ba' to go 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 

Put my ahm aroun* huh wais', 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 
Raised huh lips an' took a tase, 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 
Love me, honey, love me true? 
Love me well ez I love you? 
An' she answe'd, " 'Cose I do" 

Jump back, honey, jump back. 



WHEN MAUNDY SINGS 18 
by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

G'way an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy 

Put dat music book away; 
What's de use to keep on tryin'? 

Ef you practise twell you're gray, 
You cain't sta't no notes a-flyin' 

Lak de ones dat rants and rings 
F'om de kitchen to de big woods 

When Malindy sings. 

You ain't got de nachel o'gans 
Fu' to make de soun' come right, 

You ain't got de tu'ns an' twistin's 
Fu' to make it sweet an' light. 

"From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, copyright, 1896, 1899, 
1905, 1913, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Tell you one thing now, Miss Lucy, 

An* I'm tellin' you fu' true, 
When hit comes to raal right singing 

T ain't no easy thing to do. 

Easy 'nough fu' folks to hollah, 

Lookin' at de lines an' dots, 
When dey ain't no one kin sence it, 

An' de chune comes in, in spots; 
But fu' real melojous music, 

Dat jes* strikes yo' hea't and clings, 
Jes' you stan' an' listen wif me 

When Malindy sings. 

Ain't you nevah hyeahd Malindy? 

Blessed soul, tek up de cross! 
Look hyeah, ain't you jokin', honey? 

Well, you don't know whut you los'. 
Y ought to hyeah dat gal a-wa'blin', 

Robins, la'ks, an' all dem things, 
Heish dey moufs an' hides dey faces 

When Malindy sings. 

Fiddlin' man jes' stop his fiddling 

Lay his fiddle on de she'f ; 
Mockin'-bird quit tryin' to whistle, 

'Cause he jes' so shamed hisse'f. 
Folks a-playin' on de banjo 

Draps dey fingahs on de strings 
Bless yo' soul fu'gits to move em, 

When Malindy sings. 

She jes' spreads huh mouf and hollahs, 

"Come to Jesus," twell you hyeah 
Sinnahs' tremblin' steps and voices, 

Timid-lak a-drawin' neah; 
Den she tu'ns to "Rock of Ages," 

Simply to de cross she clings, 
An' you fin' yo' teahs a-drappin' 

When Malindy sings. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 37 

Who dat says dat humble praises 

Wif de Master nevah counts? 
Heish yo* mouf, I hyeah dat music, 

Ez hit rises up an' mounts 
Floatin' by de hills an* valleys, 

Way above dis buryin* sod, 
Ez hit makes its way in glory 

To de very, gates of God! 

Oh, hit's sweetah dan de music 

Of an edicated band; 
An' hit's dearah dan de battle's 

Song o' triumph in de Ian*. 
It seems holier dan evenin' 

When de solemn chu'ch bell rings, 
Ez I sit an* ca'mly listen 

While Malindy sings. 

Towsah, stop dat ba'kin*, hyeah me! 

Mandy, mek dat chile keep still; 
Don't you hyeah de echoes callin' 

F'om de valley to de hill? 
Let me listen, I can hyeah it, 

Th'oo de bresh of angels' wings, 
Sof an' sweet, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," 

Ez Malindy sings. 



LITTLE BROWN BABY 19 
by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Little brown baby wif spa'klin' eyes, 
Come to yo' pappy an' set on his knee. 

What you been doin', suh makin' san* pies? 
Look at dat bib you's ez du'ty ez me. 

"From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, copyright, 1896, 1899, 
1905, 1913, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. 



38 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Look at dat mouf dat's merlasses, I bet; 

Come hyeah, Maria, an* wipe off his ban's. 
Bees gwine to ketch you an* eat you up yit, 

Bern' so sticky an' sweet goodness lan's! 

Little brown baby wif spa'klin* eyes, 

Who's pappy's darlin' an' who's pappy's chile? 
Who is it all de day nevah once tries 

Fu' to be cross, er once loses dat smile? 
Whah did you git dem teef? My, you's a scamp! 

Whah did dat dimple come f'om in yo' chin? 
Pappy do' know youI b'lieves you's a tramp; 

Mammy, dis hyeah's some ol* straggler got inl 

Let's th'ow him outen de do* in de san', 

We do' want stragglers a-layin' 'roun' hyeah* 
Let's gin him 'way to de big buggah-man; 

I know he's hidin' erroun' hyeah right neah. 
Buggah-man, buggah-man, come in de do*, 

Hyeah's a bad boy you kin have fu' to eat, 
Mammy an' pappy do' want him no mo', 

Swaller him down fom his haid to his feet! 

Dah, now, I t'ought dat you'd hug me up close. 

Go back, oY buggah, you sha'n't have dis boy. 
He ain't no tramp, ner no straggler, of co'se; 

He's pappy's pa'dner an' playmate an' joy. 
Come to you' pallet now go to yo' res'; 

Wisht you could allus know ease an' cleah skies; 
Wisht you could stay jes' a chile on my breas' 

Little brown baby wif spa'klin* eyesl 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL 39 



A DEATH SONG 20 

by Paul Laurence Dunbar 



Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass > 
Whah de branch '11 go a-singin' as it pass. 

An' w'en I's a-layin' low, 

I kin hyeah it as it go 
Singin*, "Sleep, my honey, tek yo' res' at las'/' 

Lay me nigh to whah hit meks a little pool, 
An' de watah stan's so quiet lak an' cool, 

Whah de little birds in spring, 

Ust to come an' drink an' sing, 
An' de chillen waded on dey way to school. 

Let me settle w'en my shouldahs draps dey load 
Nigh enough to hyeah de noises in de road; 

Fu' I fink de las' long res* 

Gwine to soothe my sperrit bes' 
Ef I's layin' 'mong de t'ings I's allus knowed. 



ERE SLEEP COMES DOWN TO SOOTHE THE WEARY EYES 21 
by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 

Which all the day with ceaseless care have sought 
The magic gold which from the seeker flies; 

Ere dreams put on the gown and cap of thought, 
And make the waking world a world of lies, 

Of lies most palpable, uncouth, forlorn, 
That say life's full of aches and tears and sighs, 

Oh, how with more than dreams the soul is torn, 
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes. 

^From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, copyright, 1896, 1899, 
1905, 1913, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 

How all the griefs and heartaches we have known 
Come up like pois'nous vapors that arise 

From some base witch's caldron, when the crone, 
To work some potent spell, her magic plies. 

The past which held its share of bitter pain, 
Whose ghost we prayed that Time might exorcise, 

Comes up, is lived and suffered o'er again, 
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes. 

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 

What phantoms fill the dimly lighted room; 
What ghostly shades in awe-creating guise 

Are bodied forth within the teeming gloom. 
What echoes faint of sad and soul-sick cries, 

And pangs of vague inexplicable pain 
That pay the spirit's ceaseless enterprise, 

Come thronging through the chambers of the brain, 
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes. 

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 

Where ranges forth the spirit far and free? 
Through what strange realms and unfamiliar skies 

Tends her far course to lands of mystery? 
To lands unspeakable beyond surmise, 

Where shapes unknowable to being spring, 
Till, faint of wing, the Fancy fails and dies 

Much wearied with the spirit's journeying, 
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes. 

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 

How questioneth the soul that other soul, 
The inner sense which neither cheats nor lies, 

But self exposes unto self, a scroll 
Full writ with all life's acts unwise or wise, 

In characters indelible and known; 
So, trembling with the shock of sad surprise, 

The soul doth view its awful self alone, 
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 41 

When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes, 

The last dear sleep whose soft embrace is balm, 
And whom sad sorrow teaches us to prize 

For kissing all our passions into calm, 
Ah, then, no more we heed the sad world's cries, 

Or seek to probe th' eternal mystery, 
Or fret our souls at long-withheld replies, 

At glooms through which our visions cannot see, 
When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes. 



COMPENSATION 22 

by Paul Laurence Dunbar 



Because I had loved so deeply, 
Because I had loved so long, 

God in His great compassion 
Gave me the gift of song. 

Because I have loved so vainly, 
And sung with such faltering breath, 

The Master, in infinite mercy, 
Offers the boon of death. 



SONNET 

by Alice Dunbar Nelson 

I had no thought of violets of late, 

The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet 

In wistful April days, when lovers mate 

And wander through the fields in raptures sweet 

The thought of violets meant florists* shops, 

And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine; 

And garish lights, and mincing little fops 

And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine. 

^From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, copyright, 1896, 1899, 
1905, 1913, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. 



42 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed, 
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams; 
The perfect loveliness that God has made, 
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams. 
And nowunwittingly, you've made me dream 
Of violets, and my soul's forgotten gleam. 



THE HOUSE OF FALLING LEAVES 
by William Stanley Braithwaite 

The House of Falling Leaves we entered in 

He and I we entered in and found it fair; 

At midnight some one called him up the stair, 

And closed him in the Room I could not win. 

Now must I go alone out in the din 

Of hurrying days: for forth he cannot fare; 

I must go on with Time, and leave him there 

In Autumn's house where dreams will soon grow thin. 

When Time shall close the door unto the house 
And open that of Winter's soon to be, 
And dreams go moving through the ruined boughs- 
He who went in comes out a Memory. 
From his deep sleep no sound may e'er arouse, 
The moaning rain, nor wind-embattled sea. 



THE WATCHERS 23 

by William Stanley Braithwaite 

Two women on the lone wet strand 
(The wind's out with a will to roam] 

The waves wage war on rocks and sand, 
(And a ship is long due home.) 

^rom Selected Poems, by William Stanley Braithwaite, Coward-McCann, Inc., 
publishers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 43 



The sea sprays in the women's eyes 

(Hearts can writhe like the seas wild foam) 
Lower descend the tempestuous skies, 
* ( For the winds out with a will to roam. ) 

**O daughter, thine eyes be better than mine," 
(The waves ascend high as yonder dome) 

"North or south is there never a sign?" 
( And a ship is long due home. ) 

They watched there all the long night through- 
( The winds out with a will to roam ) 

Wind and rain and sorrow for two, 
(And heaven on the long reach home.) 



WHITE MAGIC: AN ODE 

by William Stanley Braithwaite 



Read at the Centenary Celebration 

of the Birth of John Greenleaf Whittier 

at Faneuil Hall, December 17, 1907 

White magic of the silences of snow! 
Over the Northern fields and hills, the moon 
Spreads her veil o'er the wizardry below; 
Amongst the ruined tree-tops is a croon 
Of the long-vanished populace of Spring; 

There is a glory here 

Where the lone farmhouse windows, glimmering 
Across the snow-fields, warm the chilly air. 
Peace is upon the valley like a dream 

By Merrimac's swift stream, 
Where his pure presence made the earth so fair. 

Time cannot tarnish the glory of the hills: 
Tides cannot wear the immaterial winds 
To outworn voids where no loud echo fills 
The long beach-comber which the sea unbinds; 



44 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The moon shall light the sun ere these things be; 

But sooner our glad hearts 
Know not darkness from sunlight on the sea 
Ere from the lips of Memory departs 
Thought or speech unpraiseful of Whittier's life, 

White magic of song and strife- 
Strife for the right Song for a sake not art's. 

In the rough farmhouse of his lowly birth 
The spirit of poetry fired his youthful years; 
No palace was more radiant on earth, 
Than the rude home where simple joys and tears 
Filled the boy's soul with the human chronicle 

Of lives that touched the soil. 
He heard about him voices and he fell 
To dreams, of the dim past, 'midst his daily toil; 
Romance and legend claimed his Muse's voice 

Till the heroic choice 
Of duty led him to the battle's broil. 

Song then became a trumpet-blast; he smote 
The arrogance of evil in the State; 
The indignation of his music wrote 
A flaming wrath in councils of debate. 
Twas passion for the justice of God's word- 
Man's common heritage 
Fulfilled in the high name of Brotherhood. 
The oracle and prophet of his age, 
He led men doubtful between wrong and right 

Through Song to see the light, 
And smite the evil power with their rage. 

He helped to seal the doom. His hope was peace 
With the great and attained. Beyond his will 
Fate shaped his aims to awful destinies 
Of vengeful justice now valley and hill 
Groaned with the roar of onset; near and far 

The terrible, sad cries 
Of slaughtered men pierced into sun and star; 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 45 

Beyond his will the violence but the prize 
Of Freedom, blood had purchased^ won to God 

His praise that all men trod 
Erect, and clothed in Freedom, 'neath the skies. 

Let thanks be ours for this great passion in him; 
And praise be our remembrance of his trust; 
Blessings that no compromise could win him, 
Like Ichabod, to soil his glory in the dust. ' 
Let ours be, too, his spirit of forgiving: 

We can but master fate 
By the sure knowledge of our brother's living- 
Won by matching his virtues, not his hate. 
Let the white radiance of his Inward Light 

Be to us, step and sight 
Up the steep road of life to Heaven's gate. 



THE ARSENAL OF THE LORD 24 
by William Stanley Braithwaite 

Against this wrong of the Teutonic might 
From lease-lend stores we give the Nations aid 
Who stand embattled, but are unafraid; 
Our wealth and labor visioned to a height 
Undreamed of, bulwarked are for Freedom's right. 
Thus making planes, munitions, it is said 
We are the arsenalby hopes repaid 
Of Democracies, to sustain their fight. 
But this is not enough. O my dear Land! 
Engirt your Spirit with the dreams of those 
Who cleared the Wilderness with Cross in hand. 
To Britain, China, Russia, and their foes 
Be bounteous with the Faith within you stored, 
And stand for all, Arsenal of the Lord! 

w From Selected Poems, by William Stanley Braithwaite, Coward-McCann, Inc, 
publishers. 



46 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE TEACHER 

by Leslie Pinckney Hill 



Lord, who am I to teach the way 
To little children day by day, 
So prone myself to go astray? 

I teach them KNOWLEDGE, but I know 
How faint they flicker and how low 
The candles of my knowledge glow. 

I teach them POWER to will and do, 

But only now to learn anew 

My own great weakness through and through. 

I teach them LOVE for all mankind 
And all God's creatures, but I find 
My love comes lagging far behind. 

Lord, if their guide I still must be, 

Oh, let the little children see 

The teacher leaning hard on Thee. 



TUSKEGEE 

by Leslie Pinckney Hill 



Wherefore this busy labor without rest? 

Is it an idle dream to which we cling, 

Here where a thousand dusky toilers sing 

Unto the world their hope? "Build we our best. 

By hand and thought," they cry, "although unblessed." 

So the great engines throb, and anvils ring, 

And so the thought is wedded to the thing; 

But what shall be the end, and what the test? 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 47 

Dear God, we dare not answer, we can see 
Not many steps ahead, but this we know 
If all our toilsome building is in vain, 
Availing not to set our manhood free, 
If envious hate roots out the seed we sow, 
The South will wear eternally a stain. 



A WINTER TWILIGHT 
by Angelina W. Grimke 



A silence slipping around like death, 

Yet chased by a whisper, a sigh, a breath; 

One group of trees, lean, naked and cold, 

Inking their crest 'gainst a sky green-gold; 

One path that knows where the corn flowers were; 

Lonely, apart, unyielding, one fir; 

And over it softly leaning down, 

One star that I loved ere the fields went brown 



FOR THE CANDLE LIGHT 
by Angelina W. Grimke 



The sky was blue, so blue, that day, 

And each daisy white, so white; 

Oh! I knew that no more could rains fall gray, 

And night again be night. 

I knew! I knew! Well, if night is night, 
And the gray skies grayly cry, 
I have in a book, for the candle light, 
A daisy, dead and dry. 



48 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



WHEN THE GREEN LIES OVER THE EARTH 
by Angelina W. Grimke 

When the green lies over the earth, my dear, 

A mantle of witching grace, 

When the smile and the tear of the young child year 

Dimple across its face, 

And then flee, when the wind all day is sweet 

With the breath of growing things, 

When the wooing bird lights on restless feet 

And chirrups and trills and sings 

To his lady-love 

In the green above, 

Then oh! my dear, when the youth's in the year, 
Yours is the face that I long to have near, 

Yours is the face, my dear. 

But the green is hiding your curls, my dear, 

Your curls so shining and sweet; 

And the gold-hearted daisies this many a year 

Have bloomed and bloomed at your feet, 

And the little birds just above your head 

With their voices hushed, my dear, 

For you have sung and have prayed and have pled 

This many, many a year. 

And the blossoms fall, 

On the garden wall, 
And drift like snow on the green below. 

But the sharp thorn grows 

On the budding rose, 

And my heart no more leaps at the sunset glow, 
For oh! my dear, when the youth's in the year, 
Yours is the face that I long to have near, 
Yours is the face, my dear. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 49 



TENEBRIS 

by Angelina W. Grimke 



There is a tree, by day, 

That, at night, 

Has a shadow, 

A hand huge and black, 

With fingers long and black. 

All through the dark, 
Against the white man's house, 

In the little wind, 
The black hand plucks and plucks 

At the bricks. 
The bricks are the color of blood and very small. 

Is it a black hand, 

Or is it a shadow? 



THE BLACK FINGER 
by Angelina W. Grimke 



I have just seen a beautiful thing 

Slim and still, 
Against a gold, gold sky, 

A straight cypress, 

Sensitive * 

Exquisite, 
A black finger 
Pointing upwards. 

Why, beautiful, still finger are you black? 
And why are you pointing upwards? 



50 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

MY HERO 

To Robert Gould Shaw 
by Benjamin Brawley 



Flushed with the hope of high desire, 

He buckled on his sword, 
To dare the rampart ranged with fire, 

Or where the thunder roared; 
Into the smoke and flame he went, 

For God's great cause to die 
A youth of heaven's element, 

The flower of chivalry. 

This was the gallant faith, I trow, 

Of which the sages tell; 
On such devotion long ago 

The benediction fell; 
And never nobler martyr burned, 

Or braver hero died, 
Than he who worldly honor spurned 

To serve the Crucified. 

And Lancelot and Sir Bedivere 

May pass beyond the pale, 
And wander over moor and mere 

To find the Holy Grail; 
But ever yet the prize forsooth 

My hero holds in fee* 
And he is Blameless Knight in truth, 

And Galahad to me. 



LIFE-LONG, POOR BROWNING 
by Anne Spencer 



Life-long, poor Browning never knew Virginia, 
Or he'd not grieved in Florence for April sallies 
Back to English gardens after Euclid's linear: 
Clipt yews, Pomander Walks, and pleached alleys; 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 51 

Primroses, prim indeed, in quiet ordered hedges, 
Waterways, soberly, sedately enchanneled, 
No thin riotous blade even among the sedges, 
All the wild country-side tamely impaneled . . . 

Dead, now, dear Browning, lives on in heaven, 
(Heaven's Virginia when the year's at its Spring) 
He's haunting the byways of wine-aired leaven 
And throating the notes of the wildings on wing; 

Here canopied reaches of dogwood and hazel, 

Beech tree and redbud fine-laced in vines, 

Fleet clapping rills by lush fern and basil, 

Drain blue hills to lowlands scented with pines . . . 

Think you he meets in this tender green sweetness 
Shade that was Elizabeth . . . immortal completeness! 



LETTER TO MY SISTER 
by Anne Spencer 



It is dangerous for a woman to defy the gods; 
To taunt them with the tongue's thin tip, 
Or strut in the weakness of mere humanity, 
Or draw a line daring them to cross; 
The gods own the searing lightning, 
The drowning waters, tormenting fears 
And anger of red sins. 

Oh, but worse still if you mince timidly 

Dodge this way or that, or kneel or pray, 

Be kind, or sweat agony drops 

Or lay your quick body over your feeble young; 

If you have beauty or none, if celibate 

Or vowed the gods are Juggernaut, 

Passing over . . . over . . . 



52 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

This you may do: 

Lock your heart, then, quietly, 

And lest they peer within, 

Light no lamp when dark comes down 

Raise no shade for sun; 

Breathless must your breath come through 

If you'd die and dare deny 

The gods their god-like fun. 



AT THE CARNIVAL 
by Anne Spencer 



Gay little Gkl-of-the-Diving-Tank, 
I desire a name for you, 
Nice, as a right glove fits; 
For you who amid the malodorous 
Mechanics of this unlovely thing, 
Are darling of spirit and form. 
I know you a glance, and what you are 
Sits-by-the-fire in my heart. 
My Limousine-Lady knows you, or 
Why does the slant-envy of her eye mark 
Your straight air and radiant inclusive smile? 
Guilt pins a fig-leaf; Innocence is its own adorning. 
The bull-necked man knows you this first time 
His itching flesh sees from divine and vibrant health, 
And thinks not of his avocation. 
I came incuriously- 
Set on no diversion save that my mind 
Might safely nurse its brood of misdeeds 
In the presence of a blind crowd. 
The color of life was gray. 
Everywhere the setting seemed right 
For my mood! 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJk. 53 



Here the sausage and garlic booth. 

Sent unholy incense skyward; 

There a quivering female-thing 

Gestured assignations, and lied 

To call it dancing; 

There, too, were games of chance 

With chances for none; 

But oh! the Girl-of-the-Tank, at last! 

Gleaming Girl, how intimately pure and free 

The gaze you send the crowd, 

As though you know the dearth of beauty 

In its sordid life. 

We need you my Limousine-Lady, 

The bull-necked man, and I. 

Seeing you here brave and water-clean, 

Leaven for the heavy ones of earth, 

I am swift to feel that what makes 

The plodder glad is good; and 

Whatever is good is God. 

The wonder is that you are here; 

I have seen the queer in queer places, 

But never before a heaven-fed 

Naiad of the Carnival-Tank! 

Little Diver, Destiny for you, 

Like as for me, is shod in silence; 

Years may seep into your soul 

The bacilli of the usual and the expedient; 

I implore Neptune to claim his child to-day! 



LINES TO A NASTURTIUM 

A lover muses 
by Anne Spencer 



Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa, 

I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar, 

Into your flaming heart; 
Then did I hear crisp crinkled laughter 
As the furies after tore him apart? 



54 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



A bird, next, small and humming, 
Looked into your startled depths and fled. . . . 
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter 

Than human eyes as mine can see, 
Set the stricken air waves drumming 

In his flight. 

Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty, 

I cannot see, I cannot hear your fluty 

Voice lure your loving swain, 

But I know one other to whom you are in beauty 

Born in vain; 

Hair like the setting sun, 

Her eyes a rising star, 

Motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar 

All your competing; 

Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet, 

Cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet, . 

Ah, how the senses flood at my repeating, 

As once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies 

Beating, beating. 



FOR JIM, EASTER EVE 
by Anne Spencer 



If ever a garden was Gethsemane, 
with old tombs set high against 
the crumpled olive tree and lichen, 
this, my garden, has been to me. 
For such as I none other is so sweet: 
Lacking old tombs, here stands my grief, 
and certainly its ancient tree. 

Peace is here and in every season 
a quiet beauty. 
The sky falling about me 
evenly to the compass . . . 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 55 

What is sorrow but tenderness now 

in this earth-close frame of land and sky 

falling constantly into horizons 

of east and west, north and south; 

what is pain but happiness here 

amid these green and wordless patterns, 

indefinite texture of blade and leaf: 

Beauty of an old, old tree, 
last comfort in Gethsemane. 



MORNING LIGHT 

The Dew-Drier 
by Effie Lee Newsome 

In Africa little black boys, 

"human brooms," are sent before the explorers 

into jungle grasses that tower many feet 

to tread down a path 

and meet sometimes 

the lurking leopard or hyena. 

They are called Dew-Driers. 

Brother to the firefly 

For as the firefly lights the night, 

So lights he the morning 

Bathed in the dank dews as he goes forth 

Through heavy menace and mystery 

Of half -waking tropic dawn, 

Behold a little black boy, 

A naked black boy, 

Sweeping aside with his slight frame 

Night's pregnant tears, 

And making a morning path to the light 

For the tropic traveler! 



56 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



ARCTIC TERN IN A MUSEUM 
by Effie Lee Newsome 



I see you in the silver 
Of moons that shine in the morning, 
Swung in an argent west, 
Before dim autumn dawns. 
I see your slim, long wings, 
Stayed speed and boundless power 
And miles and miles and miles, 
From arctic to antarctic, 
From antarctic to arctic 
On through the leagueless skies. 
And while you swing, still, 
In the museum's habitat, 
You bring the bleak heart of tundras. 
Your pallid, still plumage 
In silver and white 
To me seems but one message- 
One single symbol- 
Flight. 



LITTLE BIRCHES 

by Effie Lee Newsome 



The little birches haunt the hills 
In silent, silver masses, 
Their violet velvet shadow robes 
Beside them on the grasses. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 57 



THE HEART OF A WOMAN 
by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn, 
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on, 
Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam 
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home. 

The heart of a woman falls back with the night, 
And enters some alien cage in its plight, 
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars, 
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars. 



YOUTH 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

The dew is on the grasses, dear, 

The blush is on the rose, 
And swift across our dial-youth, 

A shifting shadow goes. 

The primrose moments, lush with bliss, 

Exhale and fade away, 
Life may renew the Autumn time, 

But nevermore the May! 



REMEMBER 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

When love's brief dream is done 
Pass on. Nor hope to see again 
The burnished glow of yesterday 
Gone with its setting sun. 



58 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Know this, the little while of love 
Is fleeting as a cloud, 
As lissom as a zephyr's breath, 
As fickle as a crowd. 

Its gleaming rainbow flames the sky- 
En thrallsthen fades from sight: 
Love for a day, an hour and then- 
Remember through the night. 



THE SUPPLIANT 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

Long have I beat with timid hands upon lif e's leaden door, 
Praying the patient, futile prayer my fathers prayed before, 
Yet I remain without the close, unheeded and unheard, 
And never to my listening ear is borne the waited word. 

Soft o'er the threshold of the years there comes this counsel cool: 
The strong demand, contend, prevail; the beggar is a fool! 



OLD BLACK MEN 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

They have dreamed as young men dream 

Of glory, love and power; 

They have hoped as youth will hope 

Of life's sun-minted hour. 



They have seen as others saw 
Their bubbles burst in air, 
And they have learned to live it down 
As though they did not care. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 59 



INTERRACIAL 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 



Let's build bridges here and there 

Or sometimes, just a spiral stair 

That we may come somewhat abreast 

And sense what cannot be exprest, 

And by these measures can be found 

A meeting place a common ground 

Nearer the reaches of the heart 

Where truth revealed, stands clear, apart; 

With understanding come to know 

What laughing lips will never show: 

How tears and torturing distress 

May masquerade as happiness: 

Then you will know when my heart's aching 

And I when yours is slowly breaking. 

Commune The altars will reveal . . . 

We then shall be impulsed to kneel 

And send a prayer upon its way 

For those who wear the thorns today. 

Oh, let's build bridges everywhere 
And span the gulf of challenge there. 



I CLOSED MY SHUTTERS FAST LAST NIGHT 
by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

I closed my shutters fast last night, 

Reluctantly and slow, 

So pleading was the purple sky 

With all the lights hung low; 

I left my lagging heart outside 

Within the dark alone, 

I heard it singing through the gloom 

A wordless, anguished tone. 



60 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Upon my sleepless couch I lay 
Until the tranquil morn 
Came through the silver silences 
To bring my heart forlorn, 
Restoring it with calm caress 
Unto its sheltered bower. 
While whispering: "Await, await 
Your golden, perfect hour." 



RECESSIONAL 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

Consider me a memory, a dream that passed away; 
Or yet a flower that has blown and shattered in a day; 
For passion sleeps alas and keeps no vigil with the years 
And wakens to no conjuring of orisons or tears. 

Consider me a melody that served its simple turn, 
Or but the residue of fire that settles in the urn, 
For love defies pure reasoning and undeterred flows 
Within, without, the vassal heart its reasoning who knows? 



MY LITTLE DREAMS 

by Georgia Douglas Johnson 

I'm folding up my little dreams 
Within my heart tonight, 

And praying I may soon forget 
The torture of their sight. 

For time's deft fingers scroll my brow 
With fell relentless art 

I'm folding up my little dreams 
Tonight, within my heart. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 61 



RULERS 

by Fenton Johnson 

It is said that many a king in troubled Europe would sell his crown 
for a day of happiness. 

I have seen a monarch who held tightly the jewel of happiness* 

On Lombard Street in Philadelphia, as evening dropped to earth, I 
gazed upon a laborer duskier than a sky devoid of moon. He was 
seated on a throne of flour bags, waving his hand imperiously as 
two small boys played on their guitars the ragtime tunes of the day. 

God's blessing on the monarch who rules on Lombard Street in Phil- 
adelphia. 



THE BANJO PLAYER 
by Fenton Johnson 

There is music in me, the music of a peasant people. 

I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing my songs of 
the cabin and the field. At the Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome 
as the violets in March; 

there is always food and drink for me there, and the dimes of those 
who love honest music. Behind the railroad tracks the little chil- 
dren clap their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle. 

But I fear that I am a failure. 

Last night a woman called me a troubadour. 
What is a troubadour? 



THE SCARLET WOMAN 
by Fenton Johnson 

Once I was good like the Virgin Mary and the Minister's wife. 
My father worked for Mr. Pullman and white people's tips; but he died 
two days after his insurance expired. 



62 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

I had nothing, so I had to go to work. 

All the stock I had was a white girl's education and a face that en- 
chanted the men of both races. 

Starvation danced with me. 

So when Big Lizzie, who kept a house for white men, came to me with 
tales of fortune that I could reap from the sale of my virtue I 
bowed my head to Vice. 

Now I can drink more gin than any man for miles around. 

Gin is better than all the water in Lethe. 



TIRED 

by Fenton Johnson 

I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else's civili- 
zation. 

Let us take a rest, M'Lissy Jane. 
I will go down to the Last Chance Saloon, drink a gallon or two of 

gin, shoot a game or two of dice and sleep the rest of the night 

on one of Mike's barrels. 
You will let the old shanty go to rot, the white people's clothes turn 

to dust, and the Calvary Baptist Church sink to the bottomless pit. 
You will spend your days forgetting you married me and ybur nights 

hunting the warm gin Mike serves the ladies in the rear of the 

Last Chance Saloon. 
Throw the children into the river; civilization has given us too many. 

It is better to die than to grow up and find that you are colored. 
Pluck the stars out of the heavens. The stars mark our destiny. The stars 

marked my destiny. 
I am tired of civilization. 



AUNT JANE ALLEN 
by Fenton Johnson 

State Street is lonely today. Aunt Jane Allen has driven her chariot to 
Heaven. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 63 

I remember how she hobbled along, a little woman, parched of skin, 

brown as the leather of a satchel and with eyes that had scanned 

eighty years of life. 
Have those who bore her dust to the last resting place buried with her 

the basket of aprons she went up and down State Street trying to 

sell? 
Have those who bore her dust to the last resting place buried with her 

the gentle worn Son that she gave to each of the seed of Ethiopia? 



WHEN I DIE 

by Fenton Johnson 



When I die my song shall be 
Crooning of the summer breeze; 
When I die. my shroud shall be 
Leaves plucked from the maple trees; 
On a couch as green as moss 
And a bed as soft as down, 
I shall sleep and dream my dream 
Of a poet's laurel crown. 

When I die my star shall drop 
Singing like a nightingale; 
When I die my soul shall rise 
Where the lyre-strings never fail; 
In the rose my blood shall lie, 
In the violet the smile, 
And the moonbeams thousand strong 
Past my grave each night shall file. 



THE LONELY MOTHER 
by Fenton Johnson 



Oh, my mother's moaning by the river, 
My poor mother's moaning by the river, 
For her son who walks the earth in sorrow. 



64 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Long my mother's moaned beside the river, 
And her tears have filled an angel's pitcher: 
"Lord of Heaven, bring to me my honey, 
Bring to me the darling of my bosom, 
For a lonely mother by the river." 

Cease, O mother, moaning by the river; 
Cease, good mother, moaning by the river. 
I have seen the star of Michael shining, 
Michael shining at the Gates of Morning. 
Row, O mighty angel, down the twilight, 
Row until I find a lonely woman, 
Swaying long beneath a tree of cypress, 
Swaying for her son who walks in sorrow. 



WHO IS THAT A-WALK1NG IN THE CORN? 
by Fenton Johnson 



Who is that a-walking in the corn? 
I have looked to East and looked to West 
But nowhere could I find Him who walks 
Master's cornfield in the morning. 

Who is that a-walking in the corn? 
Is it Joshua, the son of Nun? 
Or King David come to fight the giant 
Near the cornfield in the morning? 

Who is that a-walking in the corn? 
Is it Peter jangling Heaven's keys? 
Or old Gabriel come to blow his horn 
Near the cornfield in the morning? 

Who is that a-walking in the corn? 
I have looked to East and looked to West 
But nowhere could I find Him who walks 
Master's cornfield in the morning. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 65 



ENIGMA 

by Jessie Redmond Fausef 



There is no peace with you, 

Nor any rest! 

Your presence is a torture to the brain. 

Your words are barbed arrows to the breast, 

And one but greets 

To wish you sped again. 

Frustrate you make desire 

And action vain. 

There is no peace with you . . . 

No peace . . . 

Nor any rest. 

Yet in your absence 

Longing springs anew, 

And hopefulness besets the baffled brain. 

"If only you were you and yet not you!" 

If you such joy could give as you give pain! 

Then what an unguent for the burning breast! 

And for the harassed heart 

What rapture true! 

"If only you were you and yet not youl" 

There is no peace with you 

Nor ever any rest! 



LA VIE C'EST LA VIE 
by Jessie Redmond Fauset 



On summer afternoons I sit 
Quiescent by you in the park, 
And idly watch the sunbeams gild 
And tint the ash-trees* bark. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Or else I watch the squirrels frisk 
And chaffer in the grassy lane; 
And all the while I mark your voice 
Breaking with love and pain. 

I know a woman who would give 
Her chance of heaven to take my place; 
To see the love-light in your eyes, 
The love-glow on your face! 

And there's a man whose lightest word 
Can set my chilly blood afire; 
Fulfillment of his least behest 
Defines my life's desire. 

But he will none of me, nor I 
Of you. Nor you of her. 'Tis said 
The world is full of jests like these 
I wish that I were dead. 



DEAD FIRES 

by Jessie Redmond Fauset 

If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing, 
Then better far the hateful fret, the sting. 

Better the wound forever seeking balm 
Than this gray calm! 

Is this pain's surcease? Better far the ache, 

The long-drawn dreary day, the night's white wake, 

Better the choking sigh, the sobbing breath 
Than passion's death! 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL 67 



OBLIVION 

by Jessie Redmond Pause* 

From the French of 
Massillon Coicou (Haiti) 

I hope when I am dead that I shall lie 

In some deserted grave I cannot tell you why, 

But I should like to sleep in some neglected spot, 
Unknown to every one, by every one forgot. 

There lying I should taste with my dead breath 
The utter lack of life, the fullest sense of death; 

And I should never hear the note of jealousy or hate, 
The tribute paid by passers-by to tombs of state. 

To me would never penetrate the prayers and tears 
That futilely bring torture to dead and dying ears; 

There I should lie annihilate and my dead heart would bless 
Oblivion the shroud and envelope of happiness. 



STATUS QUO 
by Binga Dismond 

Let Bourbons fight for status quo 

And battle to maintain jim crow 

A mere short span they can decide 

With whom we eat; with whom we ride; 

With whom we pass the hours by; 

With whom we inarch; with whom we die. 

But they stay not time's endless rust 

When they and we will end in dust, 

And all in final chemistry 

Become as one immutably 

And shall remain a status quo 

Without a vestige of jim crow. 



68 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

AT EARLY MORN 
by Binga Dismond 



From the French 
of Catulle Mendes 

At early morn the telephone; 

She asked that I should come alone. 

I obeyed. 

An hour came and passed along; 
She asked if I would play a song? 

I played. 

When shadows slowly came at eve, 

She trembling, asked that I should leave. 

I stayed. 



SONG OF THE SON 25 
by Jean Toomer 

Pour O pour that parting soul in song, 
O pour it in the sawdust glow of night, 
Into the velvet pine-smoke air to-night, 
And let the valley carry it along. 
And let the valley carry it along. 

O land and soil, red soil and sweet-gum tree, 
So scant of grass, so profligate of pines, 
Now just before an epoch's sun declines 
Thy son, in time, I have returned to thee, 
Thy son, I have in time returned to thee. 

^rom Cane, by Jean Toomer. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing 
Corp. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 

In time, for though the sun is setting on 

A song-lit race of slaves, it has not set; 

Though late, O soil, it is not too late yet 

To catch thy plaintive soul, leaving, soon gone, 

Leaving, to catch thy plaintive soul soon gone. 

O Negro slaves, dark purple ripened plums, 
Squeezed, and bursting in the pine-wood air, 
Passing, before they stripped the old tree bare 
One plum was saved for me, one seed becomes 
An everlasting song, a singing tree, 
Caroling softly souls of slavery, 
What they were, and what they are to me, 
Caroling softly souls of slavery. 



BEEHIVE 26 

by Jean Toomer 

Within this black hive to-night 

There swarm a million bees; 

Bees passing in and out the moon, 

Bees escaping out the moon, 

Bees returning through the moon, 

Silver bees intently buzzing, 

Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees 

Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb, 

And I, a drone, 

Lying on my back, 

Lipping honey, 

Getting drunk with silver honey, 

Wish that I might fly out past the moon 

And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower. 

^From Cane, by Jean Toomer. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing 
Corp. 



70 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



EVENING SONG 27 
by Jean Taomcr 

Full moon rising on the waters of my heart, 

Lakes and moon and fires, 

Cloine tires, 

Holding her lips apart. 

Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm the moon, 

Miracle made vesper-keeps, 

Cloine sleeps, 

And IH be sleeping soon. 

Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters where the moon-waves start, 

Radiant, resplendently she gleams, 

Cloine dreams, 

Lips pressed against my heart. 



GEORGIA DUSK 28 
by Jean Toomer 

The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue 
The setting sun, too indolent to hold 
A lengthened tournament for flashing gold, 

Passively darkens for night's barbecue, 

A feast of moon and men and barking hounds, 

An orgy for some genius of the South 

With blood-shot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth, 
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds. 

The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop, 
And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill, 



Cane, by Jean Toomer. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing 
Corp. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.5.A. 71 

Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill 
Their early promise of a bumper crop. 

Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile 
Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low 
Where only chips and stumps are left to show 

The solid proof of former domicile. 

Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp, 

Race memories of king and caravan, 

High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man, 
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp. 

Their voices rise . . . the pine trees are guitars, 
Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . . . 
Their voices rise . . . the chorus of the cane 

Is caroling a vesper to the stars . . . 

O singers, resinous and soft your songs 

Above the sacred whisper of the pines, 

Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines, 
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs. 



SUPPLICATION 

by Joseph S. Cotter, Jr. 



I am so tired and weary, 
So tired of the endless fight, 

So weary of waiting the dawn 
And finding endless night. 

That I ask but rest and quiet 
Rest for the days that are gone, 

And quiet for the little space 
That I must journey on. 



72 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



AND WHAT SHALL YOU SAY? 
by Joseph S. Cotter, Jr. 



Brother, come! 

And let us go unto our God. 

And when we stand before Him 

I shall say 

"Lord, I do not hate, 

I am hated. 

I scourge no one, 

I am scourged, 

I covet no lands, 

My lands are coveted. 

I mock no peoples, 

My people are mocked." 

And, brother, what shall you say? 



DARK SYMPHONY 
by Melvm B. Tolson 

I Allegro Moderate 



Black Crispus Attucks taught 

Us how to die 

Before white Patrick Henry's bugle breath 
Uttered the vertical 

Transmitting cry: 
"Yea, give me liberty or give me death." 

Waifs of the auction block, 

Men black and strong 
The juggernauts of despotism withstood, 
Loin-girt with faith that worms 

Equate the wrong 
And dust is purged to create brotherhood. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 73 

No Banquets ghost can rise 

Against us now, 

Aver we hobnailed Man beneath the brute, 
Squeezed down the thorns of greed 

On Labor's brow, 
Garroted lands and carted off the loot. 



II Lento Grave 



The centuries-old pathos in our voices 
Saddens the great white world, 
And the wizardry of our dusky rhythms 
Conjures up shadow-shapes of ante-bellum years: 

Black slaves singing One More River to Cross 

In the torture tombs of slave-ships, 

Black slaves singing Steal Away to Jesus 

In jungle swamps, 

Black slaves singing The Crucifixion 

In slave-pens at midnight, 

Black slaves singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 

In cabins of death, 

Black slaves singing Go Down, Moses 

In the canebrakes of the Southern Pharaohs. 



Ill Andante Sostenuto 



They tell us to forget 
The Golgotha we tread . . . 
We who are scourged with hate, 
A price upon our head. 
They who have shackled us 
Require of us a song, 
They who have wasted us 
Bid us condone the wrong. 

They tell us to forget 
Democracy is spurned. 



74 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

They tell us to forget 
The Bill of Rights is burned. 
Three hundred years we slaved, 
We slave and suffer yet: 
Though flesh and bone rebel, 
They tell us to forget! 

Oh, how can we forget 
Our human rights denied? 
Oh, how can we forget 
Our manhood crucified? 
When Justice is profaned 
And plea with curse is met, 
When Freedom's gates are barred, 
Oh, how can we forget? 



IV Tempo Prime 

The New Negro strides upon the continent 

In seven-league boots . . . 

The New Negro 

Who sprang from the vigor-stout loins 

Of Nat Turner, gallows-martyr for Freedom, 

Of Joseph Cinquez, Black Moses of the Amistad Mutiny, 

Of Frederick Douglass, oracle of the Catholic Man, 

Of Sojourner Truth, eye and ear of Lincoln's legions, 

Of Harriet Tubrnan, Saint Bernard of the Underground Railroad. 

The New Negro 

Breaks the icons of his detractors, 

Wipes out the conspiracy of silence, 

Speaks to his America: 

"My history-moulding ancestors 

Planted the first crops of wheat on these shores, 

Built ships to conquer the seven seas, 

Erected the Cotton Empire, 

Flung railroads across a hemisphere, 

Disemboweled the earth's iron and coal, 

Tunneled the mountains and bridged rivers, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 75 

Harvested the grain and hewed forests, 
Sentineled the Thirteen Colonies, 
Unfurled Old Glory at the North Pole, 
Fought a hundred battles for the Republic.** 

The New Negro: 

His giant hands fling murals upon high chambers, 

His drama teaches a world to laugh and weep, 

His voice thunders the Brotherhood of Labor, 

His science creates seven wonders, 

His Republic of Letters challenges the Negro-baiters. 

The New Negro, 

Hard-muscled, Fascist-hating, Democracy-ensouled, 

Strides in seven-league boots 

Along the Highway of Today 

Toward the Promised Land of Tomorrow! 



V Larghetto 



None in the Land can say 

To us black men Today: 

You send the tractors on their bloody path, 

And create Okies for The Grapes of Wrath. 

You breed the slum that breeds a Native Son 

To damn the good earth Pilgrim Fathers won. 

None in the Land can say 

To us black men Today: 

You dupe the poor with rags-to-riches tales, 

And leave the workers empty dinner pails. 

You stuff the ballot box, and honest men 

Are muzzled by your demagogic din. 

None in the Land can say 

To us black men Today: 

You smash stock markets with your coined blitzkriegs, 

And make a hundred million guinea pigs. 

You counterfeit our Christianity, 

And bring contempt upon Democracy. 



76 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



None in the Land can say 

To us black men Today: 

You prowl when citizens are fast asleep, 

And hatch Fifth Column plots to blast the deep 

Foundations of the State and leave the Land 

A vast Sahara with a Fascist brand. 



VI Tempo di Marcia 



Out of abysses of Illiteracy, 
Through labyrinths of Lies, 
Across waste lands of Disease . . . 
We advance! 

Out of dead-ends of Poverty, 
Through wildernesses of Superstition, 
Across barricades of Jim Crowism . . 
We advance! 

With the Peoples of the World . . . 
We advance! 



ON SEEING TWO BROWN BOYS IN A CATHOLIC CHURCH 
by Frank Home 

It is fitting that you be here, 
Little brown boys 
With Christ-like eyes 
And curling hair. 

Look you on yonder crucifix 

Where He hangs nailed and pierced 

With head hung low 

And eyes all blind with blood that drips 

From a thorny crown . . . 

Look you well, 

You shall know this thing. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 77 

Judas' kiss shall burn your cheek 
And you will be denied 
By your Peter 

And Gethsemane . . . 

You shall know full well. . . . 

Gethsemane . . . 

You, too, will suffer under Pontius Pilate 
And feel the rugged cut of rough-hewn cross 
Upon your surging shoulder 

They will spit in your face 

And laugh ... 

They will nail you up twixt thieves 

And gamble for your garments. 

And in this you will exceed God 
For on this earth 
You shall know Hell 

O little brown boys 
With Christ-like eyes 
And curling hair, 
It is fitting that you be here. 



KID STUFF 

by Frank Home 

December, 1942 



The wise guys 
tell me 

that Christmas 
is Kid Stuff . . . 
Maybe they've got 
something there 



78 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Two thousand years ago 

tihree wise guys 

chased a star 

across a continent 

to bring 

frankincense and myrrh 

to a Kid 

born in a manger 

with an idea in his head . . 

And as the bombs 

crash 

all over the world 

today 

the real wise guys 

know 

that we've all 

got to go chasing stars 

again 

in the hope 

that we can get back 

some of that 

Kid Stuff 

born two thousand years age 



TOAST 

by Frank Home 



Here's to your eyes 

for the things I see , 

drowned in them. 

Here's to your lips 

Two livid streaks of flame. 

Here's to your heart 

May it ever be full 

of the love of loving. . . . 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 79 

Here's to your body 

a lithesome hill-top tree 

swaying 

to a spring's morning breath, . . . 

Here's to your soul 

as yet 

unborn. . . , 



LETTERS FOUND NEAR A SUICIDE 
by Frank Home 



To all of you 



My little stone 

Sinks quickly 

Into the bosom of this deep, dark pool 

Of oblivion . . . 

I have troubled its breast but little 

Yet those far shores 

That knew me not 

Will feel the fleeting, furtive kiss 

Of my tiny concentric ripples . . . 



To Mother 



I came 

In the blinding sweep 

Of ecstatic pain, 

Igo 

In the throbbing pulse 

Of aching space 

In the eons between 

I piled upon you 

Pain on pain 

Ache on ache 

And yet as I go 

I shall know 



80 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



To Catalina 



To Telie 



That you will grieve 
And want me back . 



Love thy piano, Oh girl, 

It will give you back 

Note for note 

The harmonies of your soul. 

It will sing back to you 

The high songs of your heart. 

It will give 

As well as take . . , 



You have made my voice 

A rippling laugh 

But rny heart 

A crying thing . . . 

Tis better thus: 

A fleeting kiss 

And then, 

The dark . . . 



To "Chick" 



Oh Achilles of the moleskins 

And the gridiron 

Do not wonder 

Nor doubt that this is I 

That lies so calmly here 

This is the same exultant beast 

That so joyously 

Ran the ball with you 

In those far-flung days of abandon. 

You remember how recklessly 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 8T 

We revelled in the heat and the dust 

And the swirl of conflict? 

You remember they called us 

The Terrible Two? 

And you remember 

After we had battered our heads 

And our bodies 

Against the stonewall of their defense, 

You remember the signal I would call 

And how you would look at me 

In faith and admiration 

And say "Let's go," . . . 

How the lines would clash 

And strain, 

And how I would slip through 

Fighting and squirming 

Over the line 

To victory. 

You remember, Chick? . . . 

When you gaze at me here 

Let that same light 

Of faith and admiration 

Shine in your eyes 

For I have battered the stark stonewall 

Before me , * . 

I have kept faith with you 

And now 

I have called my signal, 

Found my opening 

And slipped through 

Fighting and squirming 

Over the line 

To victory. . . . 



To Wanda 



To you, so far away 
So cold and aloof, 



82 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

To you, who knew me so well, 

This is my last Grand Gesture 

This is my last Great Effect 

And as I go winging 

Through the black doors of eternity 

Is that thin sound I hear 

Your applause? , . . 



To James 



Do you remember 

How you won 

That last race . . . ? 

How you flung your body 

At the start . . . 

How your spikes 

Ripped the cinders 

In the stretch . . . 

How you catapulted 

Through the tape . . . 

Do you remember . . , ? 

Don't you think 

I lurched with you 

Out of those starting holes . . . ? 

Don't you think 

My sinews tightened 

At those first 

Few strides . . . 

And when you flew into the stretch 

Was not all my thrill 

Of a thousand races 

In your blood . . . ? 

At your final drive 

Through the finish line 

Did not my shout 

TeU of the 

Triumphant ecstasy 

Of victory . . . ? 



THE CRAFTSMAN 
by Marcus B. Christian 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A, 83 

Live 

As I have taught you 
To run, Boy- 
It's a short dash 
Dig your starting holes 
Deep and firm 
Lurch out of them 
Into the straightaway 
With all the power 
That is in you 
Look straight ahead 
To the finish line 
Think only of the goal 
Run straight 
Run high 
Run hard 
Save nothing 
And finish 

With an ecstatic burst 
That carries you 
Hurtling 
Through the tape 
To victory. . . . 



I ply with all the cunning of my art 
This little thing, and with consummate care 
I fashion it so that when I depart, 
Those who come after me shall find it fair 
And beautiful. It must be free of flaws- 
Pointing no labprings of weary hands; 
And there must be no flouting of the laws 
Of beautyas the artist understands. 



34 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Through passion, yearnings infinite yet dumb 
I lift you from the depths of my own mind 
And gild you with my soul's white heat to plumb 
The souls of future men. I leave behind 
This thing that in return this solace gives: 
"He who creates true beauty ever lives." 



McDONOGH DAY IN NEW ORLEANS 
by Marcus B. Christian 

The cotton blouse you wear, your mother said, 
After a day of toil, "I guess 111 buy it"; 
For ribbons on your head and blouse she paid 
Two-bits a yard as if you would deny it! 

And nights, after a day of kitchen toil, 
She stitched your re-made skirt of serge once blue- 
Weary of eye, beneath a lamp of oil: 
McDonogh would be proud of her and you. 

Next, came white "creepers" and white stockings, too 
They almost asked her blood when they were sold; 
Like some dark princess, to the school go you, 
With blue larkspur and yellow marigold; 
But few would know or even guess this fact: 
How dear comes beauty when a skin is black. 



NOCTURNE VARIAL 
by Lewis Alexander 



I came as a shadow, 
I stand now a light; 
The depth of my darkness 
Transfigures your night. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.&A, 85 



My soul is a nocturne 
Each note is a star; 
The light will not blind you 
So look where you are. 

The radiance is soothing. 
There's warmth in the light. 
I came as a shadow, 
To dazzle your night! 



DREAM SONG 
by Lewis Alexander 



Walk with the sun, 

Dance at high noon; 

And dream when night falls black; 

But when the stars 

Vie with the moon, 

Then call the lost dream back. 



TRANSFORMATION 
by Lewis Alexander 



I return the bitterness, 
Which you gave to me; 
When I wanted loveliness 
Tantalant and free. 

I return the bitterness 
It is washed by tears; 
Now it is a loveliness 
Garnished through the years. 

I return it loveliness, 
Having made it so; 
For I wore the bitterness 
From it long ago. 



&5 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

AFTER WINTER 29 

by Sterling A. Brown 

He snuggles his fingers 

In the blacker loam 

The lean months are done with, 

The fat to come. 

His eyes are set 
On a brushwood-fire 
But his heart is soaring 
Higher and higher. 

Though he stands ragged 
An old scarecrow, 
. This is the way 
His swift thoughts go, 

"Butter beans jo" Clara 
Sugar com fo' Grace 
An 9 jo de little feller 
Runnin space. 

"Radishes and lettuce 
Eggplants and beets 
Turnips fo 9 de winter 
An candied sweets. 

"Homespun tobacco 
Apples in debin 
Fo' smokin an' fo 9 cider 
When de folks draps in" 

He thinks with the winter 
His troubles are gone; 
Ten acres unplanted 
To raise dreams on. 

^From Southern Road, by Sterling A. Brown, copyright, 1932, by Harcourt, Brace 
and Company, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A 87 

The lean months are done with, 
The fat to come. 
His hopes, winter wanderers, 
Hasten home. 

"Butterbeans fo* Clara 
Sugar corn fo* Grace 
An jo 9 de Uttle fetter 
Runnin space. . /* 



OLD LEM 80 

by Sterling A. Brown 

I talked to old Lem 
And old Lem said: 

'They weigh the cotton 
They store the corn 

We only good enough 
To work the rows; 
They run the commissary 
They keep the books 

We gotta be grateful 
For being cheated; 
Whippersnapper clerks 
Call us out of our name 
We got to say mister 
To spindling boys 
They make our figgers 
Turn somersets 
We buck in the middle 
Say, Thankyuh, sah.' 

They don't come by ones 
They dont come by twos 
But they come by tens. 

*By permission of author. 



-88 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

"They got the judges 
They got the lawyers 
They got the jury-rolls 
They got the law 

They dont come by ones 
They got the sheriffs 
They got the deputies 

They dont come by twos 
They got the shotguns 
They got the rope 

We git the justice 
In the end 

And they come by tens. 

"Their fists stay closed 
Their eyes look straight 
Our hands stay open 
Our eyes must fall 

They dont come by ones 
They got the manhood 
They got the courage 

They dont come by twos 
We got to slink around, 
Hangtailed hounds. 
They bum us when we dogs 
They burn us when we men 

They come by tens. . . . 

"I had a buddy 
Six foot of man 
Muscled up perfect 
Game to the heart 

They dont come by ones 
Outworked and outfought 
Any man or two men 

They don't come by twos 
He spoke out of turn 
At the commissary 
They gave him a day 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 89 

To git out the county. 
He didn't take it. 
He said 'Come and get me/ 
They came and got him. 

And they came by tens. 
He stayed in the county- 
He lays there dead. 

They dorit come by ones 
They don't come by twos 
But they come by tens'" 



FORECLOSURE 31 

by Sterling A. Brown 

Father Missouri takes his own. 
These are the fields he loaned them, 
Out of hearts' 'fullness; gratuitously; 
Here are the banks he built up for his children- 
Here are the fields; rich, fertile silt. 

Father Missouri, in his dotage 
Whimsical and drunkenly turbulent, 
Cuts away the banks; steals away the loam; 
Washes the ground from under wire fences, 
Leaves fenceposts grotesquely dangling in the air; 
And with doddering steps approaches the shanties. 

Father Missouri; far too old to be so evil. 

Uncle Dan, seeing his garden lopped away, 
Seeing his manured earth topple slowly in the stream, 
Seeing his cows knee-deep in yellow water, 
His pig-sties flooded, his flower beds drowned, 
Seeing his white leghorns swept down the stream 

^From Southern Road, by Sterling A. Brown, copyright, 1932, by Harcourt, Brace 
and Company, Inc. 



90 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Curses Father Missouri, impotently shakes 
His fist at the forecloser, the treacherous skinflint; 
Who takes what was loaned so very long ago, 
And leaves puddles in his parlor, and useless lakes 
In his fine pasture land. 
Sees years of work turned to nothing- 
Curses, and shouts in his hoarse old voice, 
"Ain't got no right to act dat way at alT 
And the old river rolls on, slowly to the gulf. 



REMEMBERING NAT TURNER 32 
by Sterling A. Brown 

We saw a bloody sunset over Courtland, once Jerusalem, 

As we followed the trail that old Nat took 

When he came out of Cross Keys down upon Jerusalem, 

In his angry stab for freedom a hundred years ago. 

The land was quiet, and the mist was rising, 

Out of the woods and the Nottaway swamp, 

Over Southampton the still night fell, 

As we rode down to Cross Keys where the march began. 

When we got to Cross Keys, they could tell us little of him, 
The Negroes had only the faintest recollections: 

"I ain't been here so long, I come from up roun' Newsome; 

Yassah, a town a few miles up de road, 

The old folks who coulda told you is all dead an' gone. 

I heard something, sometime; I doan jis remember what. 

Tears lak I heard that name somewheres or other. 

So he fought to be free. Well. You doan say." 

An old white woman recalled exactly 
How Nat crept down the steps, axe in his hand, 
After murdering a woman and child in bed, 
"Right in this house at the head of these stairs." 
(In a house built long after Nat was dead. ) 

^By permission of author. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 91 

She pointed to a brick store where Nat was captured, 
(Nat was taken in a swamp, three miles away) 
With his men around him, shooting from the windows 
(She was thinking of Harper's Ferry and old John Brown.) 
She cackled as she told how they riddled Nat with bullets 
(Nat was tried and hanged at Courtland, ten miles away] 
She wanted to know why folks would come miles 
Just to ask about an old nigger fool. 

"Ain't no slavery no more, things is going all right, 

Pervided thar's a good goober market this year. 

We had a sign post here with printing on it, 

But it rotted in the hole and thar it lays; 

And the nigger tenants split the marker for kindling. 

Things is all right, naow, ain't no trouble with the niggers. 

Why they make this big to-do over Nat?" 

As we drove from Cross Keys back to Courtiand, 
Along the way that Nat came down from Jerusalem, 
A watery moon was high in the cloud-filled heavens. 
The same moon he dreaded a hundred years ago. 
The tree, they hanged Nat on is long gone to ashes, 
The trees he dodged behind have rotted in the swamps. 

The bus for Miami and the trucks boomed by, 
And touring cars, their heavy tires snarling on the pavement. 
Frogs piped in the marshes, and a hound bayed long, 
And yellow lights glowed from the cabin windows. 

As we came back the way that Nat led his army, 

Down from Cross Keys, down to Jerusalem, 

We wondered if his troubled spirit still roamed the Nottaway, 

Or if it fled with the cock-crow at daylight, 

Or lay at peace with the bones in Jerusalem, 

Its restlessness stifled by Southampton clay. 

We remembered the poster rotted through and falling, 
The marker split for kindling a kitchen fire. 



92 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



SISTER LOU 83 

by Sterling A. Brown 

Honey 

When de man 
Calls out de las* train 
You're gonna ride, 
Tell him howdy. 

Gather up yo' basket 
An' yo' knittin' an' yo' things, 
An' go on up an' visit 
Wid frien' Jesus f o' a spell. 

Show Marf a 

How to make yo' greengrape jellies, 

An' give po* Lazarus 

A passel of them Golden Biscuits. 

Scald some meal 

Fo' some rightdown good spoonbread 

Fo' HI box-plunkin' David. 

An' sit aroun* 

An' tell them Hebrew Chillen 

All yo' stories. . . . 

Honey 

Don't be feared of them pearly gates, 

Don't go 'round to de back, 

No mo' dataway 

Not evah no mo\ 

"From Southern Road, by Sterling A. Brown, copyright, 1932, by Harcourt, Brace 
and Company, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJC 93 

Let Michael tote yo' burden 

An' yo' pocketbook an' evah thing 

'Cept yo' Bible, 

While Gabriel blows somp'n 

Solemn but loudsome 

On dat horn of his'n. 

Honey 

Go Straight on to de Big House, 

An' speak to yo' God 

Widout no fear an' tremblin'. 

Then sit down 

An' pass de time of day awhile. 

Give a good talkin' to 

To yo* favorite 'postle Peter, 

An' rub the po' head 

Of mixed-up Judas, 

An' joke awhile wid Jonah. 

Then, when you gits de chance, 
Always rememberin' yo' raisin', 
Let 'em know youse tired 
Jest a mite tired. 

Jesus will find yo' bed fo' you 

Won't no servant evah bother wid yo' room. 

Jesus will lead you 

To a room wid windows 

Openin' on cherry trees an' plum trees 

Bloomin' everlastin'. 

An' dat will be yours 
Fo' keeps. 

Den take yo' time. . . . 
Honey, take yo' bressed time. 



94 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE MASK 34 

by Clarissa Scott Delany 



So detached and cool she is 
No motion e'er betrays 
The secret life within her soul, 
The anguish of her days. 

She seems to look upon the world 
With cold ironic eyes, 
To spurn emotion's fevered sway, 
To scoff at tears and sighs. 

But once a woman with a child 
Passed by her on the street, 
And once she heard from casual lips 
A man's name, bitter-sweet. 

Such baffled yearning in her eyes, 
Such pain upon her face! 
I turned aside until the mask 
Was slipped once more in place. 



SOLACE 35 

by Clarissa Scott Delany 



My window opens out into the trees 

And in that small space 

Of branches and of sky 

I see the seasons pass 

Behold the tender green 

Give way to darker heavier leaves. 

The glory of the autumn comes 



^By permission of Justice H. T. Delany. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 95 

When steeped in mellow sunlight 

The fragile, golden leaves 

Against a clear blue sky 

Linger in the magic of the afternoon 

And then reluctantly break off 

And filter down to pave 

A street with gold. 

Then bare, gray branches 

Lift themselves against the 

Cold December sky 

Sometimes weaving a web 

Across the rose and dusk of late sunset 

Sometimes against a frail new moon 

And one bright star riding 

A sky of that dark, living blue 

Which comes before the heaviness 

Of night descends, or the stars 

Have powdered the heavens. 

Winds beat against these trees; 

The cold, but gentle rain of spring 

Touches them lightly 

The summer torrents strive 

To lash them into a fury 

And seek to break them 

But they stand. 

My life is fevered 

And a restlessness at times 

An agony again a vague 

And baffling discontent 

Possesses me. 

I am thankful for my bit of sky 

And trees, and for the shifting 

Pageant of the seasons. 

Such beauty lays upon the heart 

A quiet. 

Such eternal change and permanence 

Take meaning from all turmoil 

And leave serenity 

Which knows no pain. 



96 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



JOY 56 

by Clarissa Scott Dclany 



Joy shakes me like the wind that lifts a sail, 

Like the roistering wind 

That laughs through stalwart pines. 

It floods me like the sun 

On rain-drenched trees 

That flash with silver and green. 

I abandon myself to joy 

I laugh I sing. 

Too long have I walked a desolate way, 

Too long stumbled down a maze 

Bewildered. 



INTERIM 37 

by Clarissa Scott Delany 



The night was made for rest and sleep, 
For winds that softly sigh; 
It was not made for grief and tears; 
So then why do I cry? 

The wind that blows through leafy trees 
Is soft and warm and sweet; 
For me the night is a gracious cloak 
To hide my soul's defeat. 

Just one dark hour of shaken depths, 
Of bitter black despair 
Another day will find me brave, 
And not afraid to dare. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A, 97 



1, TOO, SING AMERICA 88 
by Langston Hughes 



I, too, sing America. 

I am the darker brother. 

They send me to eat in the kitchen 

When company comes, 

But I laugh, 

And eat well, 

And grow strong. 

Tomorrow, 

111 sit at the table 

When company comes. 

Nobody'll dare 

Say to me, 

"Eat in the kitchen," 

Then. 

Besides, 

They'll see how beautiful I am 

And be ashamed 

I, too, am America. 



DREAM VARIATION 39 
by Langston Hughes 

To fling my arms wide 
In some place of the sun, 
To whirl and to dance 
Till the white day is done, 

^From The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1926, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



9fi THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Then rest at cool evening 

Beneath a tall tree 

While night comes on gently, 

Dark like me 
That is my dream! 

To fling my arms wide 
In the face of the sun, 
Dance! whirl! whirl! 
Till the quick day is done. 
Rest at pale evening. . . . 
A tall, slim tree. . . . 
Night coming tenderly 
Black like me. 



THE WEARY BLUES 40 
by Langston Hughes 

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, 
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, 

I heard a Negro play. 
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night 
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light 

He did a lazy sway. . . . 

He did a lazy sway. . . . 
To the tune o' those Weary Blues. 
With his ebony hands on each ivory key 
He made that poor piano moan with melody. 

O Blues! 

Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool 
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. 

Sweet Blues! 
Coming from a black man's soul. 

O Blues! 

^From The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1926, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 99 

In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone 
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan* 

"Ain't got nobody in all this world, 

Ain't got nobody but ma self. 

I's gwine to quit ma frownin* 

And put ma troubles on the shelf." 
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. 
He played a few chords then he sang some more 

"I got the Weary Blues 

And I can't be satisfied. 

Got the Weary Blues 

And can't be satisfied 

I ain't happy no mo* 

And I wish that I had died." 
And far into the night he crooned that tune. 
The stars went out and so did the moon. 
The singer stopped playing and went to bed 
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. 
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead. 



LITTLE GREEN TREE BLUES 41 
by Langston Hughes 

Looks like to me 

My good-time days done past. 

Yes, it looks like 

My good-time days done past. 

There's nothin* in this world 

I reckon's due to last. 

I used to play 

And I played so hard. 

I used to play, 

I played so dog-gone hard. 

Now old age is got me, 

Dealt me my bad-luck card. 

"From One Way Ticket, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1949, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



100 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

I looked down the road 
And I see a little tree. 
Little piece down the road 
I see a little tree. 
Them cool green leaves 
Is waitin' to shelter me. 

Oh, little tree! 



PERSONAL 42 

by Langston Hughes 



In an envelope marked: 

Personal 

God addressed me a letter. 
In an envelope marked: 

Personal 
I have given my answer. 



HAVANA DREAMS 43 
by Langston Hughes 

The dream is a cocktail at Sloppy Joe's 
( Maybe nobody knows. ) 

The dream is the road to Batabano. 
( But nobody knows if that is so. ) 

Perhaps the dream is only her face- 
Perhaps it's a fan of silver lace 
Or maybe the dream's a Vedado rose 
(Quien sdbe? Who really knows?) 

^From Fields of Wonder, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1947, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL T01 



HARLEM SWEETIES 44 
by Langston Hughes 

Have you dug the spill 
Of Sugar Hill? 
Cast your gims 
On this sepia thrill: 
Brown sugar lassie, 
Caramel treat, 
Honey-gold baby 
Sweet enough to eat. 
Peach-skinned girlie, 
Coffee and cream, 
Chocolate darling 
Out of a dream. 
Walnut tinted 
Or cocoa brown, 
Pomegranate-lipped 
Pride of the town. 
Rich cream-colored 
To plum-tinted black, 
Feminine sweetness 
In Harlem's no lack. 
Glow of the quince 
To blush of the rose. 
Persimmon bronze 
To cinnamon toes. 
Blackberry cordial, 
Virginia Dare wine 
All those sweet colors 
Flavor Harlem of mine! 
Walnut or cocoa, 
Let me repeat: 
Caramel, brown sugar, 
A chocolate treat. 

"From Shakespeare in Harlem, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1942, by Alfred 
A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf , Inc. 



102 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Molasses taffy, 
Coffee and cream, 
Licorice, clove, cinnamon 
To a honey-brown dream. 
Ginger, wine-gold, 
Persimmon, blackberry, 
All through the spectrum 
Harlem girls vary- 
So if you want to know beauty's 
Rainbow-sweet thrill, 
Stroll down luscious, 
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill. 



AFRO-AMERICAN FRAGMENT" 
by Lcmgston Hughes 

So long, 
So far away 
Is Africa. 

Not even memories alive 
Save those that history books create, 
Save those that songs 
Beat back into the blood-- 
Beat out of blood with words sad-sung 
In strange un-Negro tongue 
So long, 
So far away 
Is Africa. 

Subdued and time-lost 
Are the drums and yet 
Through some vast mist of race 
There comes this song 
I do not understand, 
This song of atavistic land, 

"Originally published in The Crisis, Vol. 37, No. 7, July 1930 Reprinted by per- 
mission of author. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A, 103 

Of bitter yearnings lost 
Without a place- 
So long, 
So far away 
Is Africa's 
Dark face. 



CROSS 46 

by Langston Hughes 



My old man's a white old man 
And my old mother's black. 
If ever I cursed my white old man 
I take my curses back. 

If ever I cursed my black old mother 
And wished she were in hell, 
I'm sorry for that evil wish 
And now I wish her well. 

My old man died in a fine big house, 
My ma died in a shack. 
I wonder where I'm gonna die, 
Being neither white nor black? 



SONG FOR A DARK GIRL* T 
by Langston Hughes 

Way Down South in Dixie 

(Break the heart of me) 
They hung my dark young lover 

To a cross roads tree. 

**From The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1926, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A, Knopf, Inc. 

47 From Fine Clothes to the Jew, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1927, by Alfred 
A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



104 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Way Down South in Dixie 
(Bruised body high in air) 

I asked the white Lord Jesus 
What was the use of prayer. 

Way Down South in Dixie 
(Break the heart of me) 

Love is a naked shadow 
On a gnarled and naked tree. 



MERRY-GO-ROUND 48 

Colored Child at Carnival 
by Langston Hughes 



Where is the Jim Crow section 
On this merry-go-round, 
Mister, cause I want to ride? 
Down South where I come from 
White and colored 
Can't sit side by side. 
Down South on the train 
There's a Jim Crow car. 
On the bus we're put in the back- 
But there ain't no back 
To a merry-go-round! 
Where's the horse 
For a kid that's black? 



MOTHER TO SON 49 
by Langston Hughes 

Well, son, 111 tell you: 

Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. 

"From Shakespeare in Harlem, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1942, by Alfred 
A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

^From The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1926, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A, 105 

It's had tacks in it, 
And splinters, 
And boards torn up, 
And places with no carpet on the floor- 
Bare. 

But all the time 
I'se been a-climbin' on, 
And reachin' landin's, 
And turnin* comers, 
And sometimes goin' in the dark 
Where there ain't been no light. 
So, boy, don't you turn back. 
Don't you set down on the steps 
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard. 
Don't you fall now 
For Tse still goin', honey, 
I'se still climbin', 
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair. 



THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS 50 
by Langston Hughes 

I've known rivers: 

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human 
blood in human veins. 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers. 

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. 

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. 

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. 

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to 

New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the 

sunset. 

""From The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes, copyright, 1926, by Alfred A. 
Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



106 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

IVe known rivers: 
Ancient, dusky rivers. 



My soul has grown deep like the rivers. 



LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN 51 
by Langston Hughes 

Let America be America again. 
Let it be the dream it used tc be. 
Let it be the pioneer on the plain 
Seeking a home where he himself is free. 

(America never was America to me. ) 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed 
Let it be that great strong land of love 
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme 
That any man be crushed by one above. 

(It never was America to me. ) 

O, let my land be a land where Liberty 
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, 
But opportunity is real, and life is free, 
Equality is in the air we breathe. 

(There's never been equality for me, 

Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.") 

Say who are you that mumbles in the dark? 

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? 

^Originally published in part in Esquire, July 1936. Reprinted by permission of 
author. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL 107 

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, 

I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. 

I am the red man driven from the land, 

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek 

And finding only the same old stupid plan 

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak. 



I am the young man, full of strength and hope, 

Tangled in that ancient endless chain 

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the landl 

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying needl 

Of work the men! Of take the pay! 

Of owning everything for one's own greed! 



I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. 
I am the worker sold to the machine. 
I am the Negro, servant to you all. 
I am the people, worried, hungry, mean- 
Hungry yet today despite the dream. 
Beaten yet todayO, Pioneers! 
I am the man who never got ahead, 
The poorest worker bartered through the years. 



Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream 
In that Old World while still a serf of kings, 
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, 
That even yet its mighty daring sings 
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned 
That's made America the land it has become. 
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas 
In search of what I meant to be my home 
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore, 
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea, 
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came 
To build a "homeland of the free." 



IOS THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The free? 

A dream- 
Still beckoning to me! 

O, let America be America again 

The land that never has been yet 

And yet must be 

The land where every man is free. 

The land that's mine 

The poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME 

Who made America, 

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, 

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, 

Must bring back our mighty dream again. 

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose 

The steel of freedom does not stain. 

From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, 

We must take back our land again, 

America! 

O, yes, 
I say it plain, 

America never was America to me, 
And yet I swear this oath- 
America will be! 
An ever-living seed, 
Its dream 
Lies deep in the heart of me. 

We, the people, must redeem 
Our land, the mines, the plants, the rivers, 
The mountains and the endless plain- 
All, all the stretch of these great green states 
And make America again! 



NEGRO K>ETS OF THE U.$J*u T09 



SONNETS 

by Gwendolyn B. Bennett- 



He came in silvern armour, trimmed with black 

A lover come from legends long ago 

With silver spurs and silken plumes a-blow, 

And flashing sword caught fast and buckled back 

In a carven sheath of Tamarack. 

He came with footsteps beautifully slow, 

And spoke in voice meticulously low. 

He came and Romance followed in his track. . . . 

I did not ask his name I thought him Love; 

I did not care to see his hidden face. 

All life seemed born in my intaken breath; 

All thought seemed flown like some forgotten dove. 

He bent to kiss and raised his visor's lace . . . 

All eager-lipped I kissed the mouth of Death. 



Some things are very dear to me 
Such things as flowers bathed by rain 
Or patterns traced upon the sea 
Or crocuses where snow has lain . . 
The iridescence of a gem, 
The moon's cool opalescent light, 
Azaleas and the scent of them, 
And honeysuckles in the night. 
And many sounds are also dear- 
Like winds that sing among the trees 
Or crickets calling from the weir 
Or Negroes humming melodies. 
But dearer far than all surmise 
Are sudden tear-drops in your eyes. 



110 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



LINES WRITTEN AT THE GRAVE OF ALEXANDRE DUMAS 
by Gwendolyn B. Bennett 

Cemeteries are places for departed souls 

And bones interred, 

Or hearts with shattered loves. 

A woman with lips made warm for laughter 

Would find grey stones and roving spirits 

Too chill for living, moving pulses . . . 

And thou, great spirit, woul4st shiver in thy granite shroud 

Should idle rnirth or empty talk 

Disturb thy tranquil sleeping. 

A cemetery is a place for shattered loves 
And broken hearts. . , . 
Bowed before the crystal chalice of thy soul, 
I find the multi-colored fragrance of thy mind 
Has lost itself in Death's transparency. 

Oh, stir the lucid waters of thy sleep 
And coin for me a tale 
Of happy loves and gems and joyous limbs 
And hearts where love is sweet! 

A cemetery is a place for broken hearts 
And silent thought . . . 
And silence never moves, 
Nor speaks nor sings. 



A BLACK MAN TALKS OF REAPING 
by Arna Bontemps 

I have sown beside all waters in my day. 
I planted deep, within my heart the fear 
That wind or fowl would take the grain away. 
I planted safe against this stark, lean year. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A, 111 

I scattered seed enough to plant the land 
In rows from Canada to Mexico 
But for my reaping only what the hand 
Can hold at once is all that I can show. 

Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields 
My brother's sons are gathering stalk and root, 
Small wonder then my children glean in fields 
They have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit. 



CLES 

na Bontemps 



Doubt no longer miracles, 
This spring day makes it plain 
A man may crumble into dust 
And straightway live again 

A jug of water in the sun 
Will easy turn to wine 
If love is stopping at the well 
And love's brown arms entwine. 

And you who think him only man, 
I tell you faithfully 

That I have seen Christ clothed in rain 
Walking on the sea. 



"URNE AT BETHESDA 
na Bontemps 

I thought I saw an angel flying low, 
I thought I saw the flicker of a wing 
Above the mulberry trees; but not again. 
Bethesda sleeps. This ancient pool that healed 
A host of bearded Jews does not awake. 



112 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

This pool that once the angels troubled does not move 
No angel stirs it now, no Saviour comes 
With healing in His hands to raise the sick 
And bid the lame man leap upon the ground. 

The golden days are gone. Why do we wait 

So long upon the marble steps, blood 

Falling from our open wounds? and why 

Do our black faces search the empty sky? 

Is there something we have forgotten? some precious thing 

We have lost, wandering in strange lands? 

There was a day, I remember now, 

I beat my breast and cried, **Wash me God, 

Wash me with a wave of wind upon 

The barley; O quiet One, draw near, draw near! 

Walk upon the hills with lovely feet 

And in the waterfall stand and speak. 

"Dip white hands in the lily pool and mourn 

Upon the harps still hanging in the trees 

Near Babylon along the river's edge, 

But oh, remember me, I pray, before 

The summer goes and rose leaves lose their red." 

The old terror takes my heart, the fear 
Of quiet waters and of faint twilights. 
There will be better days when I am gone 
And healing pools where I cannot be healed. 
Fragrant stars will gleam forever and ever 
Above the place where I lie desolate. 

Yet I hope, still I long to live. 
And if there can be returning after death 
I shall come back. But it will not be here; 
If you want me you must search for me 
Beneath the palms of Africa. Or if 
I am not there then you may call to me 
Across the shining dunes, perhaps I shall 
Be following a desert caravan. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 113 

I may pass through centuries of death 

With quiet eyes, but 111 remember still 

A jungle tree with burning scarlet birds. 

There is something I have forgotten, some precious thing. 

I shall be seeking ornaments of ivory, 

I shall be dying for a jungle fruit. 

You do not hear, Bethesda. 
O still green water in a stagnant pool! 
Love abandoned you and me alike. 
There was a day you held a rich full moon 
Upon your heart and listened to the words 
Of men now dead and saw the angels fly. 
There is a simple story on your face; 
Years have wrinkled you. I know, Bethesda! 
You are sad. It is the same with me. 



SOUTHERN MANSION 
by Arna Bontemps 

Poplars are standing there still as death 
And ghosts of dead men 
Meet their ladies walking 
Two by two beneath the shade 
And standing on the marble steps. 

There is a sound of music echoing 

Through the open door 

And in the field there is 

Another sound tinkling in the cotton: 

Chains of bondmen dragging on the ground. 

The years go back with an iron clank, 

A hand is on the gate, 

A dry leaf trembles on the wall. 

Ghosts are walking. 

They have broken roses down 

And poplars stand there still as death. 



114 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



LENGTH OF MOON 
by Arna Bonfemps 



Then the golden hour 

Will tick its last 

And the flame will go down in the flower. 

A briefer length of moon 

Will mark the sea-line and the yellow dune. 

Then we may think of this, yet 
There will be something forgotten 
And something we should forget. 

It will be like all things we know: 
The stone will fail; a rose is sure to go. 

It will be quiet then and we may stay 
As long at the picket gate 
But there will be less to say. 



THE RETURN 

by Arna Bontemps 



Once more, listening to the wind and rain, 

Once more, you and I, and above the hurting sound 

Of these comes back the throbbing of remembered rain, 

Treasured rain falling on dark ground. 

Once more, huddling birds upon the leaves 

And summer trembling on a withered vine. 

And once more, returning out of pain, 

The friendly ghost that was your love and mine. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 115 
II 

Darkness brings the jungle to our room: 

The throb of rain is the throb of muffled drums. 

Darkness hangs our room with pendulums 

Of vine and in the gathering gloom 

Our walls recede into a denseness of 

Surrounding trees. This is a night of love 

Retained from those lost nights our fathers slept 

In huts; this is a night that must not die. 

Let us keep the dance of rain our fathers kept 

And tread our dreams beneath the jungle sky. 



Ill 



And now the downpour ceases. 

Let us go back once more upon the glimmering leaves 

And as the throbbing of the drums increases 

Shake the grass and dripping boughs of trees. 

A dry wind stirs the palm; the old tree grieves. 

Time has charged the years: the old days have returned. 

Let us dance by metal waters burned 

With gold of moon, let us dance 

With naked feet beneath the young spice trees. 

What was that light, that radiance 

On your face? something I saw when first 

You passed beneath the jungle tapestries? 

A moment we pause to quench our thirst 
Kneeling at the water's edge, the gleam 
Upon your face is plain: you have wanted this. 
Let us go back and search the tangled dream 
And as the muffled drum-beats throb and miss 
Remember again how early darkness comes 
To dreams and silence to the drums. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



IV 



Let us go back into the dusk again, 

Slow and sad-like following the track 

Of blowing leaves and cool white rain 

Into the old gray dream, let us go back. 

Our walls close about us we He and listen 

To the noise of the street, the storm and the driven birds. 

A question shapes your lips, your eyes glisten 

Retaining tears, but there are no more words. 



IDOLATRY 

by Arna Bontemps 

You have been good to me, I give you this: 

The arms of lovers empty as our own, 

Marble lips sustaining one long kiss 

And the hard sound of hammers breaking stone. 

For I will build a chapel in the place 
Where our love died and I will journey there 
To make a sign and kneel before your face 
And set an old bell tolling on the air. 



CLOSE YOUR EYES! 
by Arna Bontemps 

Go through the gates with closed eyes. 
Stand erect and let your black face front the west. 
Drop the axe and leave the timber where it lies; 
A woodman on the hill must have his rest. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 117 



Go where leaves are lying brown and wet. 

Forget her warm arms and her breast who mothered you, 

And every face you ever loved forget. 

Close your eyes; walk bravely through. 



GOLGOTHA IS A MOUNTAIN 
by Arna Bontemps 

Golgotha is a mountain, a purple mound 
Almost out of sight. 

One night they hanged two thieves there, 
And another man. 

Some women wept heavily that night; 
Their tears are flowing still. They have made a river; 
Once it covered me. 

Then the people went away and left Golgotha 
Deserted. 

Oh, I've seen many mountains: 

Pale purple mountains melting in the evening mists and blurring on the 
borders of the sky. 

I climbed old Shasta and chilled my hands in its summer snows. 

I rested in the shadow of Popocatepetl and it whispered to me of daring 

prowess. 

I looked upon the Pyrenees and felt the zest of warm exotic nights. 
I slept at the foot of Fujiyama and dreamed of legend and of death. 
And I've seen other mountains rising from the wistful moors like the 

breasts of a slender maiden. 
Who knows the mystery of mountains! 
Some of them are awful, others are just lonely. 



Italy has its Rome and California has San Francisco, 
All covered with mountains- 
Some think these mountains grew 
Like ant hills 
Or sand dunes. 



118 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



That might be so 

I wonder what started them all! 

Babylon is a mountain 

And so is Nineveh, 

With grass growing on them; 

Palaces and hanging gardens started them. 

I wonder what is under the hills 

In Mexico 

And Japan! 

There are mountains in Africa too. 

Treasure is buried there: 

Gold and precious stones 

And moulded glory. 

Lush grass is growing there 

Sinking before the wind. 

Black men are bowing. 

Naked in that grass 

Digging with their fingers. 

I am one of them: 

Those mountains should be ours. 

It would be great 

To touch the pieces of glory with our hands. 

These mute unhappy hills, 

Bowed down with broken backs, 

Speak often one to another: 

"A day is as a year/* they cry, 

"And a thousand years as one day/* 

We watched the caravan 

That bore our queen to the courts of Solomon; 

And when the first slave traders came 

We bowed our heads. 

"Oh, Brothers, it is not long! 

Dust shall yet devour the stones 

But we shall be here when they are gone." 

Mountains are rising all around me. 

Some are so small they are not seen; 

Others are large. 

All of them get big in time and people forget 

What started them at first. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 119 

Oh the world is covered with mountains! 
Beneath each one there is something buried: 
Some pile of wreckage that started it there. 
Mountains are lonely and some are awful. 



One day I will crumble. 

They'll cover my heap with dirt and that will make a mountain. 

I think it will be Golgotha. 



A NOTE OF HUMILITY 
by Arna Bontemps 

When all our hopes are sown on stony ground, 
And we have yielded up the thought of gain, 
Long after our last songs have lost their sound, 
We may come back, we may come back again. 

When thorns have choked the last green thing we loved, 
And we have said all that there is to say, 
When love that moved us once leaves us unmoved, 
Then men like us may come to have a day. 

For it will be with us as with the bee, 
The meager ant, the sea-gull and the loon; 
We may come back to triumph mournfully 
An hour or two, but it will not be soon. 



THE DAYBREAKERS 
by Arna Bontemps 



We are not come to wage a strife 
With swords upon this hill; 



120 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

It is not wise to waste the life 

Against a stubborn will. 
Yet would we die as some have done: 
Beating a way for the rising sun. 



EPITAPH FOR A BIGOT 
by Dorothy Vena Johnson 

Life to the bigot is a whip 
That lashes creed and laity; 
Here lies the one who lost his grip 
And cringed to Death a refugee. 



GREEN VALLEY 

by Dorothy Vena Johnson 



I stood in a meadow, 
And all I could see 

Was the green valley 
Surrounding me 

Then the setting sun 
Burned a ghastly red: 

Blood of young men 
Too soon dead. 

A tawny lizard 

Crawled near my feet: 
I visioned women 

Alone, deplete. 

And now and then 
A fledgling cried, 

Like destitute folk 
On the wayside. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 121 

When I beheld 

The tallest tree, 
My soul expanded 

Inside of me. 

I wished, as I viewed 

The greenest pit, 
To bury ugliness 

In it. 

The hills were rich 

With buds impearled. 
The valley seemed 

To engulf the world. 

I stood in the meadow, 

And all I could see 
Was that green valley 

Surrounding me. 



HERITAGE 52 

For Harold Jackman 
by Countee Cullen 

What is Africa to me: 
Copper sun or scarlet sea, 
Jungle star or jungle track, 
Strong bronzed men, or regal black 
Women from whose loins I sprang 
When the birds of Eden sang? 
One three centuries removed 
From the scenes his fathers loved, 
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree, 
What is Africa to me? 

So I lie, who all day long 
Want no sound except the song 

ra From Color, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1925, by Harper & Brothers. 



122 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Sung by wild barbaric birds 

Goading massive jungle herds, 

Juggernauts of flesh that pass 

Trampling tall defiant grass 

Where young forest lovers lie, 

Plighting troth beneath the sky, 

So I lie, who always hear. 

Though I cram against my ear 

Both my thumbs, and keep them there, 

Great drums throbbing through the air. 

So I lie, whose fount of pride, 

Dear distress, and joy allied, 

Is my somber flesh and skin, 

With the dark blood dammed within 

Like great pulsing tides of wine 

That, I fear, must burst the fine 

Channels of the chafing net 

Where they surge and foam and fret. 

Africa? A book one thumbs 
Listlessly, till slumber comes. 
Unremembered are her bats 
Circling through the night, her cats 
Crouching in the river reeds, 
Stalking gentle flesh that feeds 
By the river brink; no more 
Does the bugle-throated roar 
Cry that monarch claws have leapt 
From the scabbards where they slept. 
Silver snakes that once a year 
Doff the lovely coats you wear, 
Seek no covert in your fear 
Lest a mortal eye should see; 
What's your nakedness to me? 
Here no leprous flowers rear 
Fierce corollas in the air; 
Here no bodies sleek and wet, 
Dripping mingled rain and sweat, 
Tread the savage measures of 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 123 

Jungle boys and girls in love. 
What is last year's snow to me, 
Last year's anything? The tree 
Budding yearly must forget 
How its past arose or set- 
Bough and blossom, flower, fruit, 
Even what shy bird with mute 
Wonder at her travail there, 
Meekly labored in its hair. 
One three centuries removed 
From the scenes his fathers loved, 
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree, 
What is Africa to me? 

So I He, who find no peace 
Night or day, no slight release 
From the unremittent beat 
Made by cruel padded feet 
Walking through my body's street. 
Up and down they go, and back. 
Treading out a jungle track. 
So I lie, who never quite 
Safely sleep from rain at night 
I can never rest at all 
When the rain begins to fall; 
Like a soul gone mad with pain 
I must match its weird refrain; 
Ever must I twist and squirm, 
Writhing like a baited worm, 
While its primal measures drip 
Through my body, crying, "Strip! 
Doff this new exuberance. 
Come and dance the Lover's Dance!" 
In an old remembered way 
Rain works on me night and day. 

Quaint, outlandish heathen gods 
Black men fashion out of rods, 
Clay, and brittle bits of stone, 



124 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

In a likeness like their own, 
My conversion came high-priced; 
I belong to Jesus Christ, 
Preacher of Humility; 
Heathen gods are naught to me. 

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 

So I make an idle boast; 

Jesus of the twice-turned cheek, 

Lamb of God, although I speak 

With my mouth thus, in my heart 

Do I play a double part. 

Ever at Thy glowing altar 

Must my heart grow sick and falter, 

Wishing He I served were black, 

Thinking then it would not lack 

Precedent of pain to guide it, 

Let who would or might deride it; 

Surely then this flesh would know 

Yours had borne a kindred woe. 

Lord, I fashion dark gods, too, 

Daring even to give You 

Dark despairing features where, 

Crowned with dark rebellious hair, 

Patience wavers just so much as 

Mortal grief compels, while touches 

Quick and hot, of anger, rise 

To smitten cheek and weary eyes. 

Lord, forgive me if my need 

Sometimes shapes a human creed. 

All day long and all night through, 

One thing only must I do: 

Quench my pride and cool my blood, 

Lest I perish in the -flood, 

Lest a hidden ember set 

Timber that I thought was wet 

Burning like the dryest flax, 

Melting like the merest wax, 

Lest the grave restore its dead. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE OSJL 125 



Not yet has my heart or head 
In the least way realized 
They and I are civilized. 



FOR A POET 58 
by Countee Cullcn 



I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth, 
And laid them away in a box of gold; 
Where long will cling the lips of the moth, 
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth; 
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth 
Who found earth's breath so keen and cold; 
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth, 
And laid them away in a box of gold. 



SIMON THE CYRENIAN SPEAKS 54 
by Countee Cullen 

He never spoke a word to me, 
And yet He called my name; 
He never gave a sign to me, 
And yet I knew and came. 

At first I said, "I will not bear 
His cross upon my back; 
He only seeks to place it there 
Because my skin is black/' 

But He was dying for a dream, 
And He was very meek, 
And in His eyes there shone a gleam 
Men journey far to seek. 

w ' M From Color, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1925, by Harper & Brothers. 



T2d THE POETRY OF THE KEGRO 



It was Himself my pity bought; 

I did for Christ alone 

What all of Rome could not have wrought 

With bruise of lash or stone. 



THE WISE 55 

by Countee Culfen 



Dead men are wisest, for they know 
How far the roots of flowers go, 
How long a seed must rot to grow. 

Dead men alone bear frost and rain 
On throbless heart and heafless brain, 
And feel no stir of joy or pain. 

Dead men alone are satiate; 

They sleep and dream and have no weight, 

To curb their rest, of love or hate. 

Strange, men should flee their company, 
Or think me strange who long to be 
Wrapped in their cool immunity. 



THAT BRIGHT CHIMERIC BEAST 5 * 
by Countee Cullen 

That bright chimeric beast 
Conceived yet never born, 
Save in the poet's breast, 
The white-flanked unicorn, 

^From Color, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1925, by Harper & Brothers. 
"From The Black Christ, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1929, by Harper & 
Brothers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U^A. 127 



Never may be shaken 
From his solitude; 
Never may be taken 
In any earthly wood. 

That bird forever feathered, 
Of its new self the sire, 
After aeons weathered, 
Reincarnate by fire, 
Falcon may not nor eagle 
Swerve from his eyrie, 
Nor any crumb inveigle 
Down to an earthly tree. 

That fish of the dread regime 
Invented to become 
The fable and the dream 
Of the Lord's aquarium, 
Leviathan, the jointed 
Harpoon was never wrought 
By which the Lord's anointed 
Will suffer to be caught. 

Bird of the deathless breast, 

Fish of the frantic fin, 

That bright chimeric beast 

Flashing the argent skin, 

If beasts like these you'd harry, 

Plumb then the poet's dream; 

Make it your aviary, 

Make it your wood and stream. 

There only shall the swish 
Be heard of the regal fish; 
There like a golden knife 
Dart the feet of the unicorn, 
And there, death brought to life, 
The dead bird be reborn. 



128 THE porner op THE NEGRO 



FOR A LADY 1 KNOW 57 
by Countee Cullen 



She even thinks that up in heaven 
Her class lies late and snores, 
While poor black cherubs rise at seven 
To do celestial chores. 



INCIDENT 58 

by Countee Cullen 



Once riding in old Baltimore, 
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, 
I saw a Baltimorean 
Keep looking straight at me. 

Now I was eight and very small, 
And he was no whit bigger, 
And so I smiled, but he poked out 
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger." 

I saw the whole of Baltimore 
From May until December; 
Of all the things that happened there 
That's all that I remember. 



SATURDAY'S CHILD 59 
by Countee Cullen 



Some are teethed on a silver spoon, 
With the stars strung for a rattle; 

I cut my teeth as the black racoon 

For implements of battle. 

"WFrom Color, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1925, by Harper & Brothers. 



NEGRO K>ETS OF THE U.SJk. 129 

Some are swaddled in silk and down, 
And heralded by a star; 
They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown 
On a night that was black as tar. 

For some, godfather and goddame 
The opulent fairies be; 
Dame Poverty gave me my name, 
And Pain godfathered me. 

For I was born on Saturday 

"Bad time for planting a seed," 
Was all my father had to say, 
And, "One mouth more to feed." 

Death cut the strings that gave me life, 
And handed me to Sorrow, 
The only kind of middle wife 
My folks could beg or borrow. 



FRUIT OF THE FLOWER 60 
by Countee Cullen 

My father is a quiet man 
With sober, steady ways; 
For simile, a folded fan; 
His nights are like his days. 

My mother's life is puritan, 
No hint of cavalier, 
A pool so calm you're sure it can 
Have little depth to fear. 

And yet my father's eyes can boast 
How full his life has been; . 
There haunts them yet the languid ghost 
Of some still sacred sin. 

"From Color, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1925, by Harper & Brothers* 



130 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



And though my mother chants of God, 

And of the mystic river, 

I've seen a bit of checkered sod 

Set all her flesh aquiver. 

Why should he deem it pure mischance 

A son of his is fain 

To do a naked tribal dance 

Each time he hears the rain? 

Why should she think it devil's art 
That all my songs should be 
Of love and lovers, broken heart, 
And wild sweet agony? 

Who plants a seed begets a bud, 
Extract of that same root; 
Why marvel at the hectic blood 
That flushes this wild fruit? 



YOUTH SINGS A SONG OF ROSEBUDS 61 
by Countee Cullen 

Since men grow diffident at last, 
And care no whit at all, 
If spring be come, or the fall be past, 
Or how the cool rains fall, 

I come to no flower but I pluck, 

I raise no cup but I sip, 

For a mouth is the best of sweets to suck; 

The oldest wine's on the lip. 

If I grow old in a year or two, 

And come to the querulous song 

Of "Alack and aday" and "This was true, 

And that, when I was young," 

*From Copper Sun, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1927, by Harper & Brothers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.&A. 131 

I must have sweets to remember by, 
Some blossom saved from the mire, 
Some death-rebellious ember I 
Can fan into a fire. 



THE LOSS OF LOVE 62 
by Countee CuIIen 



All through an empty place I go, 
And find her not in any room; 
The candles and the lamps I light 
Go down before a wind of gloom. 

Thick-spraddled lies the dust about, 
A fit, sad place to write her name 
Or draw her face the way she looked 
That legendary night she came. 

The old house crumbles bit by bit; 
Each day I hear the ominous thud 
That says another rent is there 
For winds to pierce and storms to flood. 

My orchards groan and sag with fruit; 
Where, Indian-wise, the bees go round- 
I let it rot upon the bough; 
I eat what falls upon the ground. 

The heavy cows go laboring 

In agony with clotted teats; 

My hands are slack; my blood is cold; 

I marvel that my heart still beats. 

I have no will to weep or sing, 
No least desire to pray or curse; 
The loss of love is a terrible thing; 
They lie who say that death is worseT 



^y permission of Mrs. Ida M. Cullen. 



132 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



YET DO I MARVEL' 8 
by Counfee CuIIen 



I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind, 

And did He stoop to quibble could tell why 

The little buried mole continues blind, 

Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die, 

Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus 

Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare 

If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus 

To struggle up a never-ending stair. 

Inscrutable His ways are, and immune 

To catechism by a mind too strewn 

With petty cares to slightly understand 

What awful brain compels His awful hand. 

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: 

To make a poet black, and bid him sing! 



FROM THE DARK TOWER 04 
by Countee CuIIen 

We shall not always plant while others reap 
The golden increment of bursting fruit, 
Not always countenance, abject and mute, 
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap; 
Not everlastingly while others sleep 
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute, 
Not always bend to some more subtle brute; 
We were not made eternally to weep. 

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark, 
White stars is no less lovely being dark, 

"From Color, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1925, by Harper & Brothers. 

"From Copper Sun, by Countee Cullen, copyright, 1927, by Harper & Brothers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U^A. 133 

And there are buds that cannot bloom at all 
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall; 
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds, 
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds. 



THE RESURRECTION 

by Jonathan Henderson Brooks 



His friends went off and left Him dead 
In Joseph's subterranean bed, 
Embalmed with myrrh and sweet aloes, 
And wrapped in snow-white burial clothes. 

Then shrewd men came and set a seal 
Upon His grave, lest thieves should steal 
His lif eless form away, and claim 
For Him an undeserving fame. 

"There is no use," the soldiers said, 
"Of standing sentries by the dead/' 
Wherefore, they drew their cloaks around 
Themselves, and fell upon the ground, 
And slept like dead men, all night through, 
In the pale moonlight and chilling dew. 

A muffled whiff of sudden breath 
Ruffled the passive air of death. 

He woke, and raised Himself in bed; 

Recalled how He was crucified; 
Touched both hands' fingers to His head, 

And lightly felt His fresh-healed side. 

Then with a deep, triumphant sigh, 
He coolly put His grave-clothes by- 
Folded the sweet, white winding sheet, 
The toweling, the linen bands, 
The napkin, all with careful hands 
And left the borrowed chamber neat. 



134 THE POETIY OF THE NEGRO 



His steps were like the breaking day: 
So soft across the watch He stole, 
He did not wake a single soul. 

Nor spill one dewdrop by the way. 

Now Calvary was loveliness: 

Lilies that flowered thereupon 

Pulled off the white moon's pallid dress, 
And put the morning's vesture on. 

"Why seek the living among the dead? 
He is not here," the angel said. 

The early winds took up the words, 

And bore them to the lilting birds, 

The leafing trees, and everything 

That breathed the living breath of spring. 



MY ANGR 

by Jonathan Henderson Brooks 



That night my angel stooped and strained 

To lift me from the mud. 

He could not lift my heaviness. 

My angel sweated blood. 

He said: You are the heaviest grief 

In heaven since the flood. 

All night my angel stooped and strained, 

Loath to abandon me: 

The heaviest load since Lucifer 

Shook heaven's regency. 

All night he interceded for 

My black necessity. 

He rose. And two wings hid his feet 
And two wings veiled his face, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U^A. 135 

And two wings took him, weary wings, 
To angels' resting place. 
He flew away. He left with me 
Despair and my disgrace. 



AND ONE SHALL LIVE IN TWO 
by Jonathan Henderson Brooks 



Though he hung dumb upon her wall 

And was so very still and small 

A miniature, a counterpart, 

Yet did she press him to her heart 

On countless, little loving trips, 

And six times pressed him to her lips! 

As surely as she kissed him six, 

As sure as sand and water mix, 

Sure as canaries sweetly sing, 

And lilies come when comes the spring, 

The two have hopes for days of bliss 

When four warm lips shall meet in kiss; 

Four eyes shall blend to see as one, 

Four hands shall do what two have done, 

Two sorrow-drops will be one tear 

And one shall live in two each year. 



MUSE IN LATE NOVEMBER 
by Jonathan Henderson Brooks 



I greet you, son, with joy and winter rue: 
For you the fatted calf, the while I bind 
Sackcloth against my heart for siring you 
At sundown and the twilight. Child, you find 
A sire sore tired of striving with the winds; 
Climbing Mount Nebo with laborious breath 
To view the land of promise through blurred lens, 
Knowing he can not enter, feeling death. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And, as old Israel called his dozen sons 

And placed his withered hands upon each head 

Ere he was silent with the skeletons 

In Mamre of the cold, cave-chambered dead, 

So would I bless you with a dreamer's will: 

The dream that baffles me, may you fulfill. 



SHE SAID . . . 

by Jonathan Henderson Brooks 

Remembering Corporal Arthur Long, Negro, 
the first soldier from Alcorn County, Mississippi, 
reported kitted in action in the invasion of Nor- 
mandy. 

She said, "Not only music; brave men marching 
Under the stripes and stars and sun's shining: 
War is sudden news. Your son was killed 
The tenth of June in France. Letter follows. 

"Oh, he was bold to hasten peace," she said. 
"And he was brave. And he desired tomorrow. 
He was too young to be compelled from sunlight, 
And moonlight; from the light of stars forever." 

She would ask questions, morbid on her mind: 
The fatal bullet found him; did he scream? 
Lie on the beach and call unhurrying Death? 
Lord, was he waiting long? How long he fought 
In France, four days or one? Who saw him fall? 
Cared that he fell in sunshine, lay in rain, 
Or perished in the night? And what star cared 
Above his battleground in Normandy? 

"Now I know why Mary of Galilee, 
One morning, rose and went into the Garden. 
And I know why she tarried and was sad. 
Mary, it is the same with me," she said. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE O&A. 137 



POET 

by Donald Jeffrey Hayes 



No rock along the road but knows 
The inquisition of his toes; 
No journey's end but what can say: 
He paused and rested here a day! 
No joy is there that you may meet 
But what will say: His kiss was sweet! 
No sorrow but will sob to you: 
He knew me intimately too. ... I 



PRESCIENCE 

by Donald Jeffrey Hayes 



I grieve to think of you alone 

That first night watch when I am gone: 

How darkness will assault your breath 

And mind with frightening thoughts of death; 

How inescapable the stress 
Of that strange new emptiness; 

How dawn such as youVe never seen 
Will streak its gray and yellow-green; 

How shadows in a drifting pall 
Will shift across this friendly wall! 

I grieve that I shall not be there 
To talk with you in your despair 

To reassure you in a glance 
Mastery of the circumstance, 



13B THE K>ETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Speaking a language coded to 
The key that I have given you; 

Whispering low some silly word 

That but our rooms and we have heard 

Nomenclature which should confound 
The horror of the underground! 

I'd sit a little while and speak 
With my lips moving on your cheek 

To help you face the awful dread 

Of watching by your newly dead . . . ! 

Oh, that somehow I might contrive 
My first night dead to be alive ... I 



HAVEN 

by Donald Jeffrey Hayes 



I'll build a house of arrogance 
A most peculiar inn 
With only room for vanquished folk 
With proud and tilted chin! . . . 



APPOGGIATURA 

by Donald Jeffrey Hayes 



It was water I was trying to think of all the time 
Seeing the way you moved about the house. . . . 
It was water, still and grey or dusty blue 
Where late at night the wind and a half -grown moon 
Could make a crazy quilt of silver ripples 



NEGRO POETS OF THE US.A. 139 

And it little mattered what you were about; 

Whether painting in your rainbow-soiled smock 

Or sitting by the window with the sunlight in your bafr 

That boiled like a golden cloud about your head 

Or whether you sat in the shadows 

Absorbed in the serious business 

Of making strange white patterns with your fingers 

Whether it was any of these things 

The emotion was always the same with me 

And all the time it was water I was trying to recall, 

Water, silent, breathless, restless, 

Slowly rising, slowly falling, imperceptibly. . . . 

It was the memory of water and the scent of air 

Blown from the sea 

That bothered me! 

When you laughed, and that was so rare a festival, 
I wanted to think of gulls dipping- 
Grey wings, white-faced, into a rising wind 
Dipping. . . . 
Do you remember the day 
You held a pale white flower to the sun 
That I might see how the yellow rays 
Played through the petals? 
As I remember now 
The flower was beautiful 
And the sunrays playing through 
And your slim fingers 
And your tilting chin 
But then: 

There was only the indistinguishable sound of water silence; 
The inaudible swish of one wave breaking. . . . 

And now that you have moved on into the past; 

You and your slim fingers 

And your boiling hair, 

Now that you have moved on into the past, 

And I have time to stroll back through the corridors of memory, 



14O THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



It is like meeting an old friend at dawn 

To find carved here deep in my mellowing mind 

These words: 

"Sea-Woman slim-fingered-water-thing , . .* 



BENEDICTION 

by Donald Jeffrey Hayes 



Not with my hands 
But with my heart I bless you: 
May peace forever dwell 
Within your breast! 

May Truth's white light 
Move with you and possess you 
And may your thoughts and words 
Wear her bright crest! 

May Time move down 
Its endless path of beauty 
Conscious of you 
And better for your being! 

Spring after Spring 
Array itself in splendor 
Seeking the favor 
Of your sentient seeing! 

May hills lean toward you 
Hills and windswept mountains 
And trees be happy 
That have seen you pass 

Your eyes dark kinsmen 
To the stars above you 
Your feet remembered 
By the blades of grass. . . . ! 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL 141 



FOUR GLIMPSES OF NIGHT 
by Frank Marshall Davis 



II 



III 



Eagerly 

Like a woman hurrying to her lover 

Night comes to the room of the world 

And lies, yielding and content 

Against the cool round face 

Of the moon. 



Night is a curious child, wandering 

Between earth and sky, creeping 

In windows and doors, daubing 

The entire neighborhood 

With purple paint. 

Day 

Is an apologetic mother 

Cloth in hand 

Following after. 



Peddling 

From door to door 

Night sells 

Black bags of peppermint stars 

Heaping cones of vanilla moon 

Until 

His wares are gone 

Then shuffles homeward 

Jingling the gray coins 

Of daybreak. 



142 THE POrTRY OF THE NEGRO 
IV 



Night's brittle song, sliver-thin 
Shatters into a billion fragments 
Of quiet shadows 
At the blaring jazz 
Of a morning sun. 



I SING NO NEW SONGS 
by Frank Marshall Davis 

Once I cried for new songs to sing ... a black rose ... a brown sky 
. . . the moon for my buttonhole , . . pink dreams for the table 

Later I learned life is a servant girl . . . dusting the same pieces yes- 
terday, today, tomorrow ... a never ending one two three one 
two three one two three 

The dreams of Milton were the dreams of Lindsay . . . drinking corn 
liquor, wearing a derby, dancing a foxtrot ... a saxophone for a 
harp 

Ideas rise with new mornings but never die . . . only names, places, 
people change . . . you are born, love, fight, tire and stop being 
. . . Caesar died with a knife in his guts . . . Jim Colosimo from 
revolver bullets 

So I shall take aged things . . . bearded dreams ... a silver dollar 
moon worn thin from the spending . . . model a new dress for this 
one . . . get that one a new hat . . * teach the other to forget the 
minuet . . . then I shall send them into the street 

And if passersby stop and say "Who is that? I never saw this pretty girl 
before" or if they .say ... "Is that old woman still alive? I thought 
she died years ago" ... if they speak these words, I shall neither 
smile nor swear . . . those who walked before me, those who 
come after me, may make better clothes, teach a more graceful 
step . . . but the dreams of Homer neither grow nor wilt. . , . 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. T43 



ROBERT WH1TMORE 
by Frank Marshall Davis 



Having attained success in business 

possessing three cars 

one wife and two mistresses 

a home and furniture 

talked of by the town 

and thrice ruler of the local Elks 

Robert Whitmore 

died of apoplexy 

when a stranger from Georgia 

mistook him 

for a former Macon waiter. 



FLOWERS OF DARKNESS 
by Frank Marshall Davis 



Slowly the night blooms, unfurling 

Flowers of darkness, covering 

The trellised sky, becoming 

A bouquet of blackness 

Unending 

Touched with sprigs 

Of pale and budding stars 

Soft the night smell 
Among April trees 
Soft and richly rare 
Yet commonplace 
Perfume on a cosmic scale 

I turn to you Mandy Lou 
I see the flowering night 
Cameo condensed 
Into the lone black rose 
Of your face 



144 TOE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The young woman-smell 

Of your poppy body 

Rises to my brain as opium 

Yet silently motionless 

I sit with twitching fingers 

Yea, even reverently 

Sit I 

With you and the blossoming night 

For what flower, plucked, 

Lingers long? 



NORTHBOUN' 

by Ariel Williams Hoiloway 

O' de wurl' ain't flat, 
An' de wurl' ain't roun', 
H'it's one long strip 
Hangin' up an' down 
Jes' Souf an' Norf ; 
Jes' Norf an' Souf. 

Talkin' Tbout sailin' 'round de wurF 
Huh! I'd be so dizzy my head 'ud twurL 
If dis heah earf wuz jes' a ball 
You no the people all 'ud fall. 

O' de wurF ain't flat, 
An' de wurl' ain't roun*, 
H'it's one long strip 
Hangin' up an' down 
Jes' Souf an' Norf; 
Jes' Norf an' Souf. 

Talkin' TDOut the City wbut Saint John saw- 
Chile you oughta go to Saginaw; 
A nigger's chance is "finest kind," 
An' pretty gals ain't hard to find. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL 145 

Huh! de wuiT ain't flat, 
An' de wurF ain't roun*, 
Jes* one long strip 
Hangin* up an* down. 
Since Norf is up, 
An* Souf is down, 
An' Hebben is up, 
I'm upward boun*. 



CONCEPTION 
by Waring Cuney 



Jesus' mother never had no man. 
God came to her one day an* said, 
"Mary, chile, kiss ma hanY' 



NO IMAGES 
by Waring Cuney 



She does not know 

Her beauty, 

She thinks her brown body 

Has no glory. 

If she could dance 

Naked, 

Under palm trees 

And see her image in the river 

She would know. 

But there are no palm trees 

On the street, 

And dish water gives back no images. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



FINIS 

by Waring Cuney 



Now that our love has drifted 

To a quiet close, 

Leaving the empty ache 

That always follows when beauty goes; 

Now that you and I, 

Who stood tip-toe on earth 

To touch our fingers to the sky, 

Have turned away 

To allow our little love to die 

Go, dear, seek again the magic touch. 

But if you are wise, 

As I shall be wise, 

You will not again 

Love over much. 



BURIAL OF THE YOUNG LOVE 
by Waring Cuney 



Weep not, 

You who love her. 



Place your flowers 
Above her 
And go your way 
Only I shall stay. 



After you have gone 
With grief in your hearts, 
I will remove the flowers 
You laid above her. 
Yes, I who love her. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U,SJC 



Do not weep, 
Friends and lovers. 

(Oh, the scent of flowers in the air! 
Oh, the beauty of her body there!) 

Gently now lay your flowers down. 

When the last mourner has gone 

And I have torn 

Each flower; 

When the last mourner has gone 

And I have tossed 

Broken stems and flower heads 

To the winds ... ah! ... 

I will gather withered leaves . . . 

I will scatter withered leaves there. 

Friends and lovers, 
Do not weep. 

Gently lay your flowers down . . . 
Gently, now, lay your flowers down. 



THE DEATH BED 
by Waring Cuney 



All the time they were praying 
He watched the shadow of a tree 
Flicker on the wall. 

There is no need of prayer 

He said, 

No need at all. 

The kin-folk thought it strange 

That he should ask them from a dying bed. 

But they left all in a row 



148 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And it seemed to ease him 
To see them go. 

There were some who kept on praying 

In a room across the hall, 

And some who listened to the breeze 

That made the shadows waver 

On the wall. 

He tried his nerve 
On a song he knew 
And made an empty note 
That might have come, 
From a bird's harsh throat. 

And all the time it worried him 
That they were in there praying, 
And all the time he wondered 
What it was they could be saying. 



GRAVE 

by Waring Cuney 

When I am in my grave 

And none are there 

Save those who like myself 

Must sleep, 

I shall wake at times 

To weep. 

I shall wake at times 

To weep, 

For I need have no fears 

There 

That someone see 

My tears 

I need have no fears* 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJL 149 



LAME MAN AND THE BLIND MAN 
by Waring Cuney 



Lame man said to the blind man, 
"Hope you're doing well." 
Blind man said to the lame man, 
"Can't you see me catching hell?" 

Blind man said to the lame man, 
"How's things with you?" 
Lame man leading the blind man, 
"I'm catching hell, too." 

Blind man playing his old guitar. 
"Somebody gimme a dime- 
Tired o' singing the blues 
For nothing all the time!" 

Lame man said to the blind man, 
"Can't I sing some bass?" 
Blind man said to the lame man, 
"Open up your face!" 

Lame man and the blind man 
Sang a too-sad song: 
"Tain't right to be so far down! 
It's wrong! Sure is wrong!" 

Blind man said to the lame man, 
"Do I feel rain or snow?" 
Lame man said to the blind man, 
"Rain! Let's go!" 



150 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

FORGOTTEN DREAMS 
by Edward Silvera 



The soft gray hands of sleep 

Toiled all night long 

To spin a beautiful garment 

Of dreams; 

At dawn 

The little task was done. 

Awakening, 

The garb so deftly spun 

Was only a heap 

Of ravelled thread 

A vague remembrance 

In my head. 



ON THE DEATH OF A CHILD 
by Edward Silvera 



You came like the dawn 
With no voice 

To proclaim your calm birth 
Save the song of the lark; 
And when shadows foretold 
That the quick day was done, 
Your little white shroud 
Had already been spun, 
So you stole away in the dark. 



SUMMER MATURES 
by Helene Johnson 



Summer matures. Brilliant Scorpion 
Appears. The Pelican's thick pouch 
Hangs heavily with perch and slugs. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.SJk, 15! 

The brilliant-bellied newt flashes 

Its crimson crest in the white water. 

In the lush meadow, by the river, 

The yellow-freckled toad laughs 

With a toothless gurgle at the white-necked stork 

Standing asleep on one red reedy leg. 

And here Pan dreams of slim stalks clean for piping, 

And of a nightingale gone mad with freedom. 

Come. I shall weave a bed of reeds 

And willow limbs and pale nightflowers. 

I shall strip the roses of their petals, 

And the white down from the swan's neck. 

Come. Night is here. The air is drunk 

With wild grape and sweet clover. 

And by the sacred fount of Aganippe 

Euterpe sings of love. Ah, the woodland creatures, 

The doves in pairs, the wild sow and her shoats, 

The stag searching the forest for a mate. 

Know more of love than you, my callous Phaon. 

The young moon is a curved white scimitar 

Pierced thru the swooning night. 

Sweet Phaon. With Sappho sleep like the stars at dawn. 

This night was born for love, my Phaon. 

Come 



FULFILLMENT 

by Helene Johnson 



To climb a hill that hungers for the sky, 
To dig my hands wrist-deep in pregnant earth, 

To watch a young bird, veering, learn to fly, 
To give a still, stark poem shining birth. 

To hear the rain drool, dimpling, down the drain 
And splash with a wet giggle in the street, 

To ramble in the twilight after supper, 

And to count the pretty faces that you meet. 



152 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

To ride to town on trolleys, crowded, teeming 

With joy and hurry and laughter and push and sweat- 
Squeezed next a patent-leathered Negro dreaming 
Of a wrinkled river and a minnow net. 

To buy a paper from a breathless boy, 

And read of kings and queens in foreign lands, 

Hyperbole of romance and adventure, 
All for a penny the color of my hand. 

To lean against a strong tree's bosom, sentient 
And hushed before the silent prayer it breathes 

To melt the still snow with my seething body 
And kiss the warm earth tremulous underneath. 

Ah, life, to let your stabbing beauty pierce me 
And wound me like we did the studded Christ, 

To grapple with you, loving you too fiercely, 
And to die bleeding consummate with Life. 



MAGALU 

by Helena Johnson 

Summer comes. 

The ziczac hovers 

'Round the greedy-mouthed crocodile. 

A vulture bears away a foolish jackal. 

The flamingo is a dash of pink 

Against dark green mangroves, 

Her slender legs rivalling her slim neck. 

The laughing lake gurgles delicious music in its throat 

And lulls to sleep the lazy lizard, 

A nebulous being on a sun-scorched rock. 

In such a place, 

In this pulsing, riotous gasp of color, 

I met Magalu, dark as a tree at night, 

Eager-lipped, listening to a man with a white collar 

And a small black book with a cross on it. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S*A. 153 

Oh Magalu, come! Take my hand and I will read you poetry. 

Chromatic words, 

Seraphic symphonies, 

Fill up your throat with laughter and your heart with song. 

Do not let him lure you from your laughing waters, 

Lulling lakes, lissome winds. 

Would you sell the colors of your sunset and the fragrance 

Of your flowers, and the passionate wonder of your forest 

For a creed that will not let you dance? 



REMEMBER NOT 
by Helene Johnson 

Remember not the promises we made 

In this same garden many moons ago. 

You must forget them. I would have it so. 

Old vows are like old flowers as they fade 

And vaguely vanish in a feeble death. 

There is no reason why your hands should clutch 

At pretty yesterdays. There is not much 

Of beauty in me now. And though my breath 

Is quick, my body sentient, my heart 

Attuned to romance as before, you must 

Not, through mistaken chivalry, pretend 

To love me still. There is no mortal art 

Can overcome Time's deep, corroding rust. 

Let Love's beginning expiate Love's end. 



INVOCATION 

by Helene Johnson 



Let me be buried in the rain 

In a deep, dripping wood, 

Under the warm wet breast of Earth 

Where once a gnarled tree stood. 



154 THE POETRY OF THE MEGRO 



And paint a picture on my tomb 

With dirt and a piece of bough 

Of a girl and a boy beneath a round, ripe moon 

Eating of love with an eager spoon 

And vowing an eager vow. 

And do not keep my plot mowed smooth 

And clean as a spinster's bed, 

But let the weed, the flower, the tree, 

Riotous, rampant, wild and free, 

Grow high above my head. 



1HE ROAD 

by Helene Johnson 



Ah, little road all whirry in the breeze, 

A leaping clay hill lost among the trees, 

The bleeding note of rapture-streaming thrush 

And stretched out in a single singing line of dusky song. 

Ah, little road, brown as my race is brown, 

Your trodden beauty like our trodden pride, 

Dust of the dust, they must not bruise you down. 

Rise to one brimming golden, spilling cry! 



1 HAVE SEEN BLACK HANDS 60 
by Richard Wright 

I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them 
Out of millions of bundles of wool and flannel tiny black fingers have 

reached restlessly and hungrily for life. 

Reached out for the black nipples at the black breasts of black mothers, 
And they've held red, green, blue, yellow, orange, white, and purple 

toys in the childish grips of possession, 
And chocolate drops, peppermint sticks, lollypops, wineballs, ice cream 

cones, and sugared cookies in fingers sticky and gummy, 
And theyVe held balls and bats and gloves and marbles and jack-knives 

and sling-shots and spinning tops in the thrill of sport and play 

""Reprinted by permission of Paul R. Reynolds & Son. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 155 

And pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and sometimes on 

New Year's, Easter, Lincoln's Birthday, May Day, a brand new 

green dollar bill, 
They've held pens and rulers and maps and tablets and books in palms 

spotted and smeared with ink, 
And they've held dice and cards and half -pint flasks and cue sticks and 

cigars and cigarettes in the pride of new maturity . . , 



I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them 
They were tired and awkward and calloused and grimy and covered 

with hangnails, 
And they were caught in the fast-moving belts of machines and snagged 

and smashed and crushed, 
And they jerked up and down at the throbbing machines massing 

taller and taller the heaps of gold in the banks of bosses, 
And they piled higher and higher the steel, iron, the lumber, wheat, 

rye, the oats, corn, the cotton, the wool, the oil, the coal, the meat, 

the fruit, the glass, and the stone until there was too much to be 

used, 
And they grabbed guns and slung them on their shoulders and marched 

and groped in trenches and fought and killed and conquered 

nations who were customers for the goods black hands had made. 
And again black hands stacked goods higher and higher until there was 

too much to be used, 
And then the black hands held trembling at the factory gates the 

dreaded lay-off slip, 
And the black hands hung idle and swung empty and grew soft and 

got weak and bony from unemployment and starvation, 
And they grew nervous and sweaty, and opened and shut in anguish 

and doubt and hesitation and irresolution . . . 

Ill 

I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them 
Reaching hesitantly out of days of slow death for the goods they had 

made, but the bosses warned that the goods were private and did 

not belong to them, 



156 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And the black hands struck desperately out in defence of life and there 
was blood, but the enraged bosses decreed that this too was wrong, 

And the black hands felt the cold steel bars of the prison they had 
made, in despair tested their strength and found that they could 
neither bend nor break them, 

And the black hands fought and scratched and held back but a thou- 
sand white hands took them and tied them, 

And the black hands lifted palms in mute and futile supplication to the 
sodden faces of mobs wild in the revelries of sadism, 

And the black hands strained and clawed and struggled in vain at the 
noose that tightened about the black throat, 

And the black hands waved and beat fearfully at the tall flames that 
cooked and charred the black flesh . . . 



IV 

I am black and I have seen black hands 

Raised in fists of revolt, side by side with the white fists of white 

workers, 

And some day and it is only this which sustains me 
Some day there shall be millions and millions of them, 
On some red day in a burst of fists on a new horizon! 



BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME 68 
by Richard Wright 

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the 

thing, 

Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms. 
And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between 

the world and me. . . . 

There was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly upon a 
cushion of ashes. 

There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt finger accus- 
ingly at the sky. 

"Reprinted by permission of Paul R. Reynolds & Son. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE USJ^ 157 

There were torn tree limbs, tiny veins of burnt leaves, and a scorched 

coil of greasy hemp; 
A vacant shoe, an empty tie, a ripped shirt, a lonely hat, and a pair of 

trousers stiff with black blood. 
And upon the trampled grass were buttons, dead matches, butt-ends 

of cigars and cigarettes, peanut shells, a drained gin-flask, and a 

whore's lipstick; 
Scattered traces of tar, restless arrays of feathers, and the lingering 

smell of gasoline. 
And through the morning air the sun poured yellow surprise into the 

eye sockets of a stony skulL . . . 
And while I stood my mind was frozen with a cold pity for the life that 

was gone. 
The ground gripped my feet and my heart was circled by icy walls 

of fear 

The sun died in the sky; a night wind muttered in the grass and fum- 
bled the leaves in the trees; the woods poured forth the hungry 

yelping of hounds; the darkness screamed with thirsty voices; and 

the witnesses rose and lived: 

The dry bones stirred, rattled, lifted, melting themselves into my bones. 
The grey ashes formed flesh firm and black, entering into my flesh. 
The gin-flask passed from mouth to mouth; cigars and cigarettes 

glowed, the whore smeared the lipstick red upon her lips, 
And a thousand faces swirled around me, clamoring that my life be 

burned. . . . 

And then they had me, stripped me, battering my teeth into my throat 

till I swallowed my own blood. 
My voice was drowned in the roar of their voices, and my black wet 

body slipped and rolled in their hands as they bound me to the 

sapling. 
And my skin clung to the bubbling hot tar, falling from me in limp 

patches. 
And the down and quills of the white feathers sank into my raw flesh, 

and I moaned in my agony. 

Then my blood was cooled mercifully, cooled by a baptism of gasoline. 
And in a blaze of red I leaped to the sky as pain rose like water, boiling 

my limbs. 



158 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Panting, begging I clutched childlike, clutched to the hot sides of 
death. 

Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in yellow sur- 
prise at the sun. . . . 



ADJURATION 

by Charles Enoch Wheeler 

Let the knowing speak 

Let the oppressed tell of their sorrows, 

Of their salt and boundless grief. 

Since even the wise and the brave 

Must wonder, and the creeping mists 

Of doubt, creep along the trough 

Of pursuing woe . . . 

To curl among the crevices 

Of the most cannily armored brain. 

Let those who can endure their doubts 

Speak for the comfort of the weary 

Who weep to know. 



TUMULT 

by Charles Enoch Wheeler 

Until your laughter 
Dusk was good, and quiet. 
Until your laughter went up 
A rocket against the dark, 
That broke in spatter of flame. 
There will never be peace again. 
The heart remembers too well, 
A rocket sang upward and broke 
Against the dark, dripping fire 
. . . And the heart is in tumult. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 159 



WITHOUT NAME 67 
by Pauli Murray 



Call it neither love nor spring madness, 
Nor chance encounter nor quest ended. 
Observe it casually as pussy-willows 
Or push-cart pansies on a city street. 
Let this seed growing in us 
Granite-strong with persistent root 
Be without name, or call it the first 
Warm wind that caressed your cheek 
And traded unshared kisses between us. 
Call it the elemental earth 
Bursting the clasp of too-long winter 
And trembling for the plough-blade. 

Let our blood chant it 

And our flesh sing anthems to its arrival, 

But our lips shall be silent, uncommitted. 



HEART OF THE WOODS 
by Wesley Curtright 

Deep in the woods well go, 

Hand in hand 

Let the woods close about us, 

Let the world outside be lost 

And let us find that Secret City 

Lost so long ago 

In the Heart of the Woods. 

^By permission of The Saturday Review of Literature and the author. 



160 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



FREEDOM IN MAH SOUL 

by David Wadsworth Cannon, Jr. 



Fo'ty acres jes' fo* mel 
And freedom in mah soul! 
Great pines lickin' up de sky, 
Hickories too and oaks so high, 
And freedom in mah soul! 

I can see it jes* as plain 
As if it all was done now. 
Fo'ty acres, mule an' plow- 
Cabin big enuf fo' foah, 
Garden 'f o* mah own front do', 
And freedom in mah soul! 

Den we gotta dig a well 
Deep, so she'll be plenty cool, 
Next we're goin' to raise a church, 
And den, we'll build a school. 
Lawd, if dis ain't jes* too grand, 
Led us straight to de promised land, 
Freedom in mah soul. 



WESTERN TOWN 

by David Wadsworth Cannon, Jr. 



Dry Gap a dingy general store. 

A sign said, "Population Seven." 

I found a universe for two: 

One sun, one moon, and called it heaven. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 161 



A BOY'S NEED 68 

by Herbert Clark Johnson 



A boy should have an open fireplace 
To sit beside, a place to warm his feet 
And have the peace of firelight on his face. 

A boy should know the songs that wood worms sing 
In burning logs in winter time, as well 
As those of robins on the boughs in spring. 

Aside from these, a hearth, like a meadow's stream, 
Has a strange old way of making boys sit down 
And dream of being men and boys should dream. 



CROSSING A CREEK 
by Herbert Clark Johnson 



He who has rolled his pants up to his knee 
And walked a lowland creek from bank to bank 
Has mixed his pulse with that of land and sea. 
And though, in after days, he cross his streams 
By bridge or log, he'll always feel its beat 
Against his body, even in his dreams. 



WILLOW BEND AND WEEP 69 
by Herbert Clark Johnson 

Bend willow, willow bend down deep 
And dip your branches into cold 
Brown river water and then weep, 
Weep, willow, for my land-sick soul. 

^From Poems from Flat Creek, by Herbert Clark Johnson; originally published 
in Yankee, April 1941. 

'"From Poems from Flat Creek, by Herbert Clark Johnson; originally published 
in Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, November 1940. 



162 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Let river tears wash out land grief, 
Let river water wash wounds made 
By too much toil without relief 
While you, willow, stood in the shade. 

Willow, you owe this much to me, 
I spared the ax for many years, 
Your roots are in my land, now, tree 
Bend down and weep. I have not tears. 



ON CALVARY'S LONELY HILL 
by Herbert Clark Johnson 



Let's not be slow in knowing 
That these cold drops of rain 
Have not the power to cleanse 
The sinner's crimson stain. 

For each sweet stolen hour 
There'll be a bitter one 
On some high lonely hill 
Before the cleansing's done. 



THE LETTER 70 

by Beatrice M. Murphy 



sion. 



Please excuse this letter; 
I know we said we're through 
But there's something very precious 
Of mine you took with you 
And I must have it back, 

70 From Love Is a Terrible Thing, by Beatrice M. Murphy. Reprinted by permis- 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 163 



I'm sure that you will find it 
If you search among your pack 
Way down in the innermost part. 

Please wrap it carefully 
Before you mail 
You see, it is my heart. 



O DAEDALUS FLY AWAY HOME 
by Robert E. Hayden 



Drifting scent of the Georgia pines, 
coonskin drum and jubilee banjo: 

pretty Malinda, dance with me. 

Night is juba, night is conjo, 

pretty Malinda, dance with me. . . . 

Night is an African juju man 

weaving a wish and a weariness together 

to make two wings. 

O fly away home, fly away 
Do you remember Africa? 

O cleave the air, fly away home 
I knew all the stars of Africa. 

Spread my wings and cleave the air 

My gran, he flew back to Africa, 

just spread his arms and flew away home. . , . 

Drifting night in the windy pines, 
night is a laughing, night is a longing: 

duskrose Malinda, come to me. . . . 



164 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Night is a mourning juju man 

weaving a wish and a weariness together 

to make two wings. 

O fly away home, fly away 



HOMAGE TO THE EMPRESS OF THE BLUES 
by Robert E. Hayden 

Because somewhere there was a man in a candystripe silk shirt 
gracile and dangerous as a jaguar and because some woman moaned 
for him in sixty watt gloom and mourned him Faithless Love 
Twotiming Love Oh Love Oh Careless Aggravating Love, 

She came out on the stage in yards of pearls, emerging like 
a favorite scenic view, flashed her golden teeth, and sang. 

Because somewhere the lathes began to show from underneath 

torn hurdygurdy lithographs of dollfaced heaven, 

because there were those who feared alaruming fists of snow upon 

the door and those who feared the riotsquad of statistics, 

She came out on the stage in ostrich feathers, beaded satin, 
and shone that smile on us and didn't need the lights and sang. 



LETTER FROM THE SOUTH 
by Robert E. Hayden 

This is no dreamworld, no nightmare country, no landscape 
by Tanguy, Ernst, or Fini. 

No. But as charged with the presence of a sleeping, 
an easily-aroused terror, 

as specialized, as selective, as trademarked in its neurosis, 

as beaked, as hideous-feathered, as gothic. 

If you have seen a battered jukebox light up in the primitive 
colors that mean sex, joy, abandon, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 1<S5 

if you have watched it wake into garishness and, lo, heard it 

begin a waxen funeral music, 
you will understand how the heart is harried here, is never 

at home here, continues a stranger. 

No terrain of delirium tremens. No. But wherever I turn, wherever, 

there are divisions and amputations 
and masks that leer and lour and grin and evade and dissemble 

and try to be human faces. 
Wherever I turn, wherever I turn, I see the deformed and the injured, 

distortions of double-exposure, 
pathetic processions hobbling, faltering on stumps of feet, on 

burnt-matchstick legs, getting nowhere. 

If you have read, and shuddered upon the reading, of England's 
plague-year, when the infected, 

made vicious by their fear, breathed upon the untainted, 

hoping to avenge themselves, then surely 

you will understand this pity, this revulsion, this angry compassion 
the heart here experiences. 

This is no f everchart territory, no shifting cinematic acre 

of the mad, certainly, 
but as tentacular, as non sequitur, as phosphorescent 

with imageries of guilt; 
as savage in its threats of death by claustrophobia, death by 

castration, death by division. Death. 



A BALLAD OF REMEMBRANCE 
by Robert E. Hayden 

Quadroon mermaids, Afro angels, saints 

blackgilt balanced upon the switchblades of that air 

and sang. Tight streets unfolding to the eye 

like fans of corrosion and elegiac lace 

crackled with their singing: Shadow of time. Shadow of blood. 



166 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Shadow, echoed the zulu king, dangling 

from a cluster of balloons. Blood, 

whined the gunmetal priestess, floating 

out from the courtyard where dead men sat at dice. 

What will you have? she inquired, the sallow vendeuse 
of prepared tarnishes and jokes of nacre and ormolu. 
What but those gleamings, oldrose graces, 
manners like scented gloves? Contrived ghosts 
rapped to metronome clack of lavalieres. 

Contrived illuminations riding a threat 

of river, masked Negroes wearing chameleon 

satins gaudy now as an undertaker's dream 

of disaster, lighted the crazy flopping dance 

of my heart, dance of love and hate among joys, rejections. 

Accommodate, muttered the zulu king, throned 

like a copper toad in a glaucous poison jewel. 

Love, chimed the saints and the angels and the mermaids. 

Hate, shrieked the gunmetal priestess 

from her spiked bellcollar curved like a fleur-de-lys: 

As well have a talon as a finger, a muzzle 
as a mouth. As well have a hollow as a heart. 
And she pinwheeled away in coruscations 
of laughter, scattering those others before her. 

But my heart continued its dance now among 
metaphorical doors, decors of illusion, 
coffeecups floating poised hysterias; 
now among mazurka dolls offering 
deaths-heads of peppermint roses and real violets. 

Then you arrived, meditative, ironic, 

richly human. And your presence was shore where my heart 

rested, released, from the hoodoo of that dance, 

where I spoke with my human voice again and saw 

the minotaurs of edict dwindle feckless, foolish. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 167 

And this is not only, therefore, a ballad 

of remembrance for the down-South arcane city 

with death in its jaws like gold teeth and archaic 

cusswords; not only a token 

for Bernice and Grady, for Mentor, for George and Oscar, 

held in the schizoid fists of that city like flowers, 

but also, Mark Van Doren, 

a poem of remembrance, a gift, a souvenir for you. 



A PHOTOGRAPH OF ISADORA DUNCAN 
by Robert E. Hayden 

How like the consummation and despair 
of a medium's gifts she seems, 
how like a revenant, receding yet 
approaching, whose message is the holiness 
of art, whose valedictory word is : Live. 

Uncouth skull and crossbones rattle wrangle 
but cannot clamor down 
what weeps and sings in these translucid fixed 
and fluent gestures: fusion of the soul's 
the body's splendor into most godly fire. 



EINE KLEINE NACHTMUS1K 
by Robert E. Hayden 



The siren cries that ran like mad and naked screaming women 
with hair ablaze all over Europe, that like ventriloquists 
made steel and stone speak out in the wild idiom of the damned, 
oh now they have ceased but have created a groaning aftersilence. 

And the mended ferris wheel turns to a tune again 
in nevermore Alt Wien and poltergeists in imperials 



168 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

and eau de cologne go up and up on the f erris wheel la la 

in contagious dark where only the dead are relaxed and warm. 

II 

Anton the student hunches in a frigid room and reads and hears 
the clawfoot sarabande, the knucklebone passacaglia coming close: 
he has put on the requisite ancestral blue, 
and his hair would glister festive as opals if the girandole 

Had its way. A single prism is left to exclaim 
at the dear iota of warmth and light a burntdown candle 
salvages. Anton aching reads re-reads the dimming lines, 
warms thumb and finger at the candleshine and turns the page. 

Ill 

Now as the ferris wheel revolves to extrovert neomusic 
and soldiers pay with cigarettes and candybars 
for rides for rides with the famished girls whose colloquies 
with death have taught them how to play at being whores: 

Now as skin-and-bones Europe hurts all over from the swastika's 
hexentanz: oh think of Anton, Anton brittle, Anton crystalline; 
think what the winter moon, the leper beauty of a Gothic tale, must see: 
the ice-azure likeness of a young man reading, carved most craftily, 



RUNAGATE RUNAGATE 
by Robert E. Hayden 



And it's fare you well, fare you well, 
I'm on my way to Canaan, fare you well. 

O freedom mythic North 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 169 

like some rock-crystal far-off Bible city 

Runs falls rises stumbles on 

from darkness into darkness and the darkness 

thicketed with shapes of fear and the hounds behind 

and the hunters behind and the night cold and the night long 

and the river to cross and blackness ahead keep on 

and doubt ahead when shall I reach that somewhere 

that tomorrow and if they find me if they overtake me 

die fighting keep on never turn back 

Runagate nigger Runagate 

Many thousands rise and go, 
many thousands done crossed over. 

Some go weeping and some rejoicing, 
some in coffins and some in carriages, 
some in silk, most in shackles. 

Rise and go or fare you well 
Blind and halt and tired and lonely, 
hunched and straight and proud and humble. 

Come along, brother, or fare you well 

No more auction-block for me, 
no more driver's lash for me. 

Rise and go 

Runagate Runagate 

If you catch a Sambo disguised as a dandy, 
if you catch a Mandy mincing like a lady, 
notify subscriber and claim reward; 

but it's only fair to warn you: 

They will run underground when you try to catch them, 
plunge into quicksands, whirlpools, mazes, 



170 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

they will turn to scorpions when you try to catch them, 
salamanders, nettles; they will turn to fire. 

And before 111 be a slave 
111 be buried in my grave. 

North Star and bonanza gold 
I'm bound for the freedom, freedom-bound 
and oh Susanna don't you cry for me 
Runagate 



II 



And it is now she comes, 

summoned by their need: 

Harriet Tubman, 

whipscarred woman of earth, risen out of bondage, 
risen from their anguish and their power 
for to be a calling, for to be a shining. 

Mean to be free. 

Emerges from unnatural shadow, 
accomplice of that host whose crime 
is the opening of a door, the lighting of a lamp, 
the whispering of a name; 

Is strategist of stars and ghostly silences. 

Walks that panthergloom of trauma and decay 

with pistol and disguises, 

equal to all the gothic role requires: 

Hairbreadth escape by iceblock, hidden stair, 
hand-to-hand encounters with the hooded stalkers, 
despair and panic and betrayal. 

Mean to be free. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 171 

Wanted: the negress Harriet Tubman, 

alias The General, alias Conductor, alias Moses: 

stealer of slaves, in league 

with the bigots Alcott and Emerson, Hussey and Haviland, 

with the traitors Garrison, Still, Thoreau, 

the troublemakers Loguen, Douglass, Coffin, old John Brown: 

Reward 

Godgazing Ezekiel, oh tell me do you see 
mailed Jehovah coming to deliver me? 

Dead or Alive 
Come ride this train. Mean to be free. 



FREDERICK DOUGLASS 
by Robert E. Hayden 

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, 

this beautiful 

and terrible thing, needful to man as air, 
usable as the earth; when it belongs at last to our children, 
when it is truly instinct, brainmatter, diastole, systole, 
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more 
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians: 
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro 
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world 
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien, 
this man, superb in love and logic, this man 

shall be remembered oh, not with statues* rhetoric, 

not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone, 
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives 
fleshing his dream of the needful beautiful thing. 



172 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



CREOLE GIRL 

by Leslie M. Collins 



When you dance, 

Do you think of Spain, 

Purple skirts and clipping castanets, 

Creole Girl? 

When you laugh, 
Do you think of France, 
Golden wine and mincing minuets, 
Creole Girl? 

When you sing, 

Do you think of young America, 
Grey guns and battling bayonets, 
Creole Girl? 

When you cry, 

Do you think of Africa, 

Blue nights and casual canzonets, 

Creole Girl? 



SIX O'CLOCK 
by Owen Dodson 



I have a river in my mind 

Where I have drowned myself 

So many times I feel sharp flesh 

Of water underneath 

My eyelids; and between my toes 

The minnows smuggle time 

And heard it where all shells begin 

To grow what children on the shore 

Will beg to listen to. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 173 



Horizon, water, land 

For me at six o'clock: 

A scarlet time of sky 

That drinks your rim, horizon; 

Turns your blue to blood, 

Oh sea; absorbs your green, 

Oh land: in scarlet time 

I'll see the wave, 

The quicksand arm ascend 

To master and control 

All teeth, death-growing hair, 

(Goodbye) Each cell that loves. 

(Goodbye my dear goodbye) 



RAG DOLL AND SUMMER BIRDS 

For Frank Harriott 
by Owen Dodson 

II 

The snow cannot melt too soon for the birds left behind. 

The crumbs fall in the crevices of snow 

And the birds taste winter in their throats, 

Wonder where the warm seasons went. 

Their wings do not know the directions 

The other flocks are gone, the signs are 'covered with winter. 

There are no signals . . . Directionless . . . Lost . . . Alone 

Why are the flowers on the trees so white? 
Why are these flowers so cold? 

Smoke is in the chimneys where warmth is, 
The sky is low and dark and level in the barns, 
The intricate cobwebs are thinner than branches: 
They are not singing places, not resting places, 
Hay has not the smell of their nests, 
Their songs turn to ice in the air. 



174 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



The dark stiff little compact spots you see on these white fields are not 
shadows. 



COUNTERPOINT 
by Owen Dodson 

Terror does not belong to open day 

Picnics on the beach, all along 

The unmined water children play, 

A merry-go-round begins a jingle song, 

Horses churn up and down the peppermint poles, 

Children reach for the brassy ring, 

Children laugh while the platform rolls 

Faster and faster while the horses sing: 

merry-ro, merry-o, 
this is the way your lives should go: 
up and down and all around 
listening to this merry sound. 

Terror does not belong to open day 

merry-ro, merry-ha, 
snatch this ring and plant a star; 
grow a field of magic light, 
reap it on a winter night. 

Terror does not belong to open day 



EPITAPH FOR A NEGRO WOMAN 
by Owen Dodson 

How cool beneath this stone the soft moss lies, 
How smooth and long the silken threads have kept 
Without the taste of slender rain or stars, 
How tranquilly the outer coats have slept. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 175 

Alone with only wind, with only ice, 
The moss is growing, clinging to the stone; 
And seeing only what the darkness shows, 
It thrives without the moon, it thrives alone. 



THE DECISION 
by Owen Dodson 



Who are these among you 
Homesick for home, longing for peace 
The summer going and the war going 
And all the sharp promises of peace? 

Watch from your foxholes 
For fire on distant mountains, 
Fire flags lit with peace 
Waving on the mountains. 

There are other journeys 

You must make after your journey home, 

Other journeys you must make alone 

Into the countries of the heart 

To sit with silence and decide alone 

If your final home will be 
Where brother knows brother, 
Chews meat, breaks bread 
Together with his brother; 

Or where a man will trample again 

His neighbor, shake no hands, 

Scorn fellowship, light fires 

Of dark bones and flesh to warm his hands. 

Who are these among you 
Longing for peace among all men, 
Longing for each homesick heart 
To make a pilgrimage among all men? 



176 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

POEMS FOR MY BROTHER KENNETH 
by Owen Dodson 



VII 



Sleep late with your dream. 
The morning has a scar 
To mark on the horizon 
With death of the morning star. 

The color of blood will appear 
And wash the morning sky, 
Aluminum birds flying with fear 
Will scream to your waking, 
Will send you to die; 

Sleep late with your dream. 
Pretend that the morning is far, 
Deep in the horizon country, 
Unconcerned with the morning star. 



OCTOBER JOURNEY 71 
by Margaret Walker 

Traveller take heed for journeys undertaken in the dark of the year. 

Go in the bright blaze of Autumn's equinox. 

Carry protection against ravages of a sun-robber, a vandal, and a thief. 

Cross no bright expanse of water in the full of the moon. 

Choose no dangerous summer nights; 

no heady tempting hours of spring; 

October journeys are safest, brightest, and best. 

I want to tell you what hills are like in October 

when colors gush down mountainsides 

and little streams are freighted with a caravan of leaves. 



For My People, by Margaret Walker. Reprinted by permission of Yale 
University Press. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 177 

I want to tell you how they blush and turn in fiery shame and joy, 

how their love burns with flames consuming and terrible 

until we wake one morning and woods are like a smoldering plain 

a glowing caldron full of jewelled fire: 

the emerald earth a dragon's eye 

the poplars drenched with yellow light 

and dogwoods blazing bloody red. 

Travelling southward earth changes from gray rock to green velvet. 

Earth changes to red clay 

with green grass growing brightly 

with saffron skies of evening setting dully 

with muddy rivers moving sluggishly. 

in the early spring when the peach tree blooms 

wearing a veil like a lavender haze 

and the pear and plum in their bridal hair 

gently snow their petals on earth's grassy bosom below 

then the soughing breeze is soothing 

and the world seems bathed in tenderness, 

but in October 

blossoms have long since fallen. 

A few red apples hang on leafless boughs; 

wind whips bushes briskly. 

And where a blue stream sings cautiously 

a barren land feeds hungrily. 

An evil moon bleeds drops of death. 

The earth burns brown. 

Grass shrivels and dries to a yellowish mass. 

Earth wears a dun-colored dress 

like an old woman wooing the sun to be her lover, 

be her sweetheart and her husband bound in one. 

Farmers heap hay in stacks and bind corn in shocks 

against the biting breath of frost. 

The train wheels hum, "I am going home, I am going home, 
I am moving toward the South." 



178 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Soon cypress swamps and muskrat marshes 

and black fields touched with cotton will appear. 

I dream again of my childhood land 

of a neighbor's yard with a redbud tree 

the smell of pine for turpentine 

an Easter dress, a Christmas eve 

and winding roads from the top of a hill. 

A music sings within my flesh 

I feel the pulse within my throat 

my heart fills up with hungry fear 

while hills and flatlands stark and staring 

before my dark eyes sad and haunting 

appear and disappear. 

Then when I touch this land again 

the promise of a sun-lit hour dies. 

The greenness of an apple seems 

to dry and rot before my eyes. 

The sullen winter rains 

are tears of grief I cannot shed. 

The windless days are static lives. 

The clock runs down 

timeless and still. 

The days and nights turn hours to years 

and water in a gutter marks the circle of another world 

hating, resentful, and afraid 

stagnant, and green, and full of slimy things. 



MOLLY MEANS 72 
by Margaret Walker 

Old Molly Means was a hag and a witch; 
Chile of the devil, the dark, and sitch. 
Her heavy hair hung thick in ropes 
And her blazing eyes was black as pitch. 

'"From For My People, by Margaret Walker. Reprinted by permission of Yale 
University Press. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 179 



Imp at three and wench at leben 

She counted her husbands to the number seben. 
O Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
There goes the ghost of Molly Means. 

Some say she was born with a veil on her face 
So she could look through unnatchal space 
Through the future and through the past 
And charm a body or an evil place 
And every man could well despise 
The evil look in her coal black eyes. 
Old Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
Dark is the ghost of Molly Means. 

And when the tale begun to spread 

Of evil and of holy dread: 

Her black-hand arts and her evil powers 

How she cast her spells and called the dead, 

The younguns was afraid at night 

And the farmers feared their crops would blight. 
Old Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
Cold is the ghost of Molly Means. 

Then one dark day she put a spell' 
On a young gal-bride just come to dwell 
In the lane just down from Molly's shack 
And when her husband come riding back 
His wife was barking like a dog 
And on all fours like a common hog. 
O Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
Where is the ghost of Molly Means? 

The neighbors come and they went away 
And said .she'd die before break of day 
But her husband held her in his arms 
And swore he'd break the wicked charms; 
He'd search all up and down the land 
And turn the spell on Molly's hand. 
O Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
Sharp is the ghost of Molly Means. 



180 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



So he rode all day and he rode all night 
And at the dawn he come in sight 
Of a man who said he could move the spell 
And cause the awful thing to dwell 
On Molly Means, to bark and bleed 
Till she died at the hands of her evil deed. 
Old Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
This is the ghost of Molly Means. 

Sometimes at night through the shadowy trees 

She rides along on a winter breeze. 

You can hear her holler and whine and cry. 

Her voice is thin and her moan is high, 

And her cackling laugh or her barking cold 

Bring terror to the young and old. 
O Molly, Molly, Molly Means 
Lean is the ghost of Molly Means. 



WE HAVE BEEN BELIEVERS 78 
by Margaret Walker 

We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old land, 
believing in the secrets of the seeress and the magic of the charmers 
and the power of the devil's evil ones. 

And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers believing 
in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of our brothers, be- 
lieving in the conjure of the humble and the faithful and the pure. 

Neither the slavers' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the bayonet could 
kill our black belief. In our hunger we beheld the welcome table 
and in our nakedness the glory of a long white robe. We have been 
believers in the new Jerusalem. 



For My People, by Margaret Walker. Reprinted by permission of Yale 
University Press. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 181 

We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a Moloch 
demanding our sons and our daughters, our strength and our wills 
and our spirits of pain. We have been believers, silent and stolid 
and stubborn and strong. 

We have been believers yielding substance for the world. With our 
hands have we fed a people and out of our strength have they 
wrung the necessities of a nation. Our song has filled the twilight 
and our hope has heralded the dawn. 

Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the cleansing 
breath of many molten truths, that the eyes of the blind may see 
and the ears of the deaf may hear and the tongues of the people 
be filled with living fire. 

Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the priests and 
the preachers and the powers will hear. Surely now that our hands 
are empty and our hearts too full to pray they will understand. 
Surely the sires of the people will send us a sign. 

We have been believers believing in our burdens and our demigods too 
long. Now the needy no longer weep and pray; the long-suffering 
arise, and our fists bleed against the bars with a strange insistency. 



HARRIET TUBMANP 4 
by Margaret Walker 

Dark is the face of Harriet, 
Darker still her fate 
Deep in the dark of southern wilds 
Deep in the slavers' hate. 

Fiery the eye of Harriet, 
Fiery, dark, and wild; 
Bitter, bleak, and hopeless 
Is the bonded child. 

74 From For My People, by Margaret Walker. Reprinted by permission o Yale 
University Press. 



182 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Stand in the fields, Harriet, 
Stand alone and still 
Stand before the overseer 
Mad enough to kill. 

This is slavery, Harriet, 
Bend beneath the lash; 
This is Maryland, Harriet, 
Bow to poor white trash. 

You're a field hand, Harriet, 
Working the corn; 
You're a grubber with the hoe 
And a slave child born. 

You're just sixteen, Harriet, 
And never had a beau; 
Your mother's dead long time ago, 
Your daddy you don't know. 

This piece of iron's not hard enough 
To kill you with a blow, 
This piece of iron can't hurt you, 
Just let you slaves all know. 

I'm still the overseer, 
Old marsterll believe my tale; 
I know that he will keep me, 
From going to the jail. 

Get up, bleeding Harriet, 

I didn't hit you hard; 

Get up, bleeding Harriet, 

And grease your head with lard. 

Get up, sullen Harriet, 
Get up and bind your head. 
Remember this is Maryland 
And I can beat you dead. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 183 

How far is the road to Canada? 
How far do I have to go? 
How far is the road from Maryland 
And the hatred that I know? 

I stabbed that overseer; 
I took his rusty knife; 
I killed that overseer; 
I took his lowdown life. 

For three long years I waited, 
Three years I kept my hate, 
Three years before I killed him, 
Three years I had to wait. 

Done shook the dust of Maryland 
Clean off my weary feet; 
I'm on my way to Canada 
And Freedom's golden street. 

I'm bound to git to Canada 

Before another week; 

I come through swamps and mountains, 

I waded many a creek. 

Now tell my brothers yonder 
That Harriet is free; 
Yes, tell my brothers yonder 
No more auction block for me. 



Come down from the mountain, Harriet, 
Come down to the valley at night, 
Come down to your weeping people 
And be their guiding light. 

Sing Deep Dark River of Jordan, 
Don't you want to cross over today? 
Sing Deep Wide River of Jordan, 
Don't you want to walk Freedom's way? 



184 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



I stole down in the night time, 
I come back in the day, 
I stole back to my Maryland 
To guide the slaves away. 

I met old marster yonder 
A-coming down the road, 
And right past me in Maryland 
My old marster strode. 

I passed beside my marster 
And covered up my head; 
My marster didn't know me 
I guess he heard I'm dead. 

I wonder if he thought about 
That overseer's dead; 
I wonder if he figured out 
He ought to know this head? 

You better run, brave Harriet, 
There's ransom on your head; 
You better run, Miss Harriet, 
They want you live or dead. 

Been down in valleys yonder 
And searching round the stills, 
They got the posse after you, 
A-riding through the hills. 

They got the blood hounds smelling, 
They got their guns cocked too; 
You better run, bold Harriet, 
The white man's after you. 

They got ten thousand dollars 
Put on your coal-black head; 
They'll give ten thousand dollars; 
They're mad because you fled. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 185 

I wager they'll be riding 

A long, long time for you. 

Yes, Lord, they'll look a long time 

Till Judgment Day is due. 

* * * * 

I'm Harriet Tubman, people, 
I'm Harriet the slave, 
I'm Harriet, free woman, 
And I'm free within my grave. 

Come along, children, with Harriet 
Come along, children, come along 
Uncle Sam is rich enough 
To give you all a farm. 

I killed the overseer. 
I fooled old marster's eyes, 
I found my way to Canada 
With hundreds more besides. 

Come along to Harper's Ferry 
Come along, to brave John Brown 
Come along with Harriet, children, 
Come along ten million strong. 

I met the mighty John Brown, 
I know Fred Douglass too 
Enlisted Abolitionists 
Beneath the Union blue. 

I heard the mighty trumpet 
That sent the land to war; 
I mourned for Mister Lincoln 
And saw his f uneral car. 

Come along with Harriet, children, 
Come along to Canada. 
Come down to the river, children, 
And follow the northern star. 



186 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Fm Harriet Tubman, people, 
I'm Harriet, the slave, 
I'm Harriet, free woman, 
And I'm free beyond my grave. 

Come along to freedom, children, 
Come along ten million strong; 
Come along with Harriet, children, 
Come along ten million strong. 



FOR MY PEOPLE 15 
by Margaret Walker 

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their 
dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their 
prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly 
to an unseen power; 

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and 
the now years and the maybe years, washing ironing cooking 
scrubbing sewing mending hoeing plowing digging planting prun- 
ing patching dragging along never gaining never reaping never 
knowing and never understanding; 

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards 
playing baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier 
and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and 
store and hair and Miss Choomby and company; 

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know 
the reasons why and the answers to and the people who and the 
places where and the days when, in memory of the bitter hours 
when we discovered we were black and poor and small and dif- 
ferent and nobody cared and nobody wondered and nobody under- 
stood; 

75 From For My People, by Margaret Walker. Reprinted by permission of Ya)e 
University Press. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 187 

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to be man and 
woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine 
and religion and success, to marry their playmates and bear chil- 
dren and then die of consumption and anemia and lynching; 

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox Avenue in 
New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited 
dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and 
other people's pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and land 
and money and something something all our own; 

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time being lazy, 
sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when 
hopeless, tied and shackled and tangled among ourselves by the 
unseen creatures who tower over us omnisciently and laugh; 

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in the dark of 
churches and schools and clubs and societies, associations and 
councils and committees and conventions, distressed and disturbed 
and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving 
leeches, preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, 
by false prophet and holy believer; 

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way from 
confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, trying to fashion 
a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the adams 
and eves and their countless generations; 

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace 
be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue 
forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty 
full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in 
our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the 
dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control. 



188 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



FOR MARY McLEOD BETHUNE 
by Margaret Walker 



Great Amazon of God behold your bread 
washed home again from many distant seas. 
The cup of life you lift contains no less, 
no bitterness to mock you. In its stead 
this sparkling chalice many souls has fed, 
and broken hearted people on their knees 
lift up their eyes and suddenly they seize 
on living faith, and they are comforted. 

Believing in the people who are free, 

who walk uplifted in an honest way, 

you look at last upon another day 

that you have fought with God and men to see. 

Great Amazon of God behold your bread. 

We walk with you and we are comforted. 



KITCHENETTE BUILDING 76 
by Gwendolyn Brooks 

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, 

Grayed in, and gray. "Dream" makes a giddy sound, not strong 

Like "rent," "feeding a wife," "satisfying a man/' 

But could a dream send up through onion fumes 
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes 
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall, 
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms 

Even if we were willing to let it in, 
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean, 
Anticipate a message, let it begin? 

w Frorn A Street in Bronzeville, by Gwendolyn Brooks, copyright, 1945, by Gwen- 
dolyn Brooks Blakely. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Brothers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 189 

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute! 
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now, 
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it. 



OF DE Win WILLIAMS ON HIS WAY TO LINCOLN CEMETERY 77 
by Gwendolyn Brooks 

He was born in Alabama. 
He was bred in Illinois. 
He was nothing but a 
Plain black boy. 

Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot. 
Nothing but a plain black boy. 

Drive him past the Pool Hall. 
Drive him past the Show. 
Blind within his casket, 
But maybe he will know. 

Down through Forty-seventh Street: 
Underneath the L, 
And Northwest Corner, Prairie, 
That he loved so well. 

Don't forget the Dance Halls- 
Warwick and Savoy, 
Where he picked his women, where 
He drank his liquid joy. 

Born in Alabama. 
Bred in Illinois. 
He was nothing but a 
Plain black boy. 

Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot. 
Nothing but a plain black boy. 

"From A Street in Bronzeville, by Gwendolyn Brooks, copyright, 1945, by Gwen- 
dolyn Brooks Blakely. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Brothers. 



190 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE OLD-MARRIEDS 78 
by Gwendolyn Brooks 

But in the crowding darkness not a word did they say. 

Though the pretty-coated birds had piped so lightly all the day. 

And he had seen the lovers in the little side-streets. 

And she had heard the morning stories clogged with sweets. 

It was quite a time for loving. It was midnight. It was May. 

But in the crowding darkness not a word did they say. 



LOVE NOTE 79 

II: FLAGS 

by Gwendolyn Brooks 

Still, it is dear defiance now to carry 

Fair flags of you above my indignation, 

Top, with a pretty glory and a merry 

Softness, the scattered pound of my cold passion. 

I pull you down my foxhole. Do you mind? 

You burn in bits of saucy color then. 

I let you flutter out against the pained 

Volleys. Against my power crumpled and wan. 

You, and the yellow pert exuberance 

Of dandelion days, unmocking sun; 

The blowing of clear wind in your gay hair; 

Love changeful in you (like a music, or 

Like a sweet mournfulness, or like a dance, 

Or like the tender struggle of a fan ) . 

78 ' 79 From A Street in Bronzeville, by Gwendolyn Brooks, copyright, 1945, by 
Gwendolyn Brooks Blakely. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Brothers. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 191 



THE BIRTH IN A NARROW ROOM 80 
by Gwendolyn Brooks 

Weeps out of Kansas country something new. 
Blurred and stupendous. Wanted and unplanned. 

Winks. Twines, and weakly winks 
Upon the milk-glass fruit bowl, iron pot, 
The bashful china child tipping forever 
Yellow apron and spilling pretty cherries. 

Now, weeks and years will go before she thinks 

"How pinchy is my room! how can I breathe! 

I am not anything and I have got 

Not anything, or anything to do!" 

But prances nevertheless with gods and fairies 

Blithely about the pump and then beneath 

The elms and grapevines, then in darling endeavor 

By privy foyer, where the screenings stand 

And where the bugs buzz by in private cars 

Across old peach cans and old jelly jars. 



MENTORS 81 

by Gwendolyn Brooks 

For I am rightful fellow of their band. 

My best allegiances are to the dead. 

I swear to keep the dead upon my mind, 

Disdain for all time to be overglad. 

Among spring flowers, under summer trees, 

By chilling autumn waters, in the frosts 

Of supercilious winter all my days 

Til have as mentors those reproving ghosts. 

Reprinted by special permission from the author. 

81 From A Street in Bronzeville, by Gwendolyn Brooks, copyright, 1945, by Gwen- 
dolyn Brooks Blakely. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Brothers. 



192 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



And at that cry, at that remotest whisper, 
I'll stop my casual business. Leave the banquet 
Or leave the ball reluctant to unclasp her 
Who may be fragrant as the flower she wears, 
Make gallant bows and dim excuses, then quit 
Light for the midnight that is mine and theirs. 



PIANO AFTER WAR 82 
by Gwendolyn Brooks 



On a snug evening I shall watch her fingers, 
Cleverly ringed, declining to clever pink, 
Beg glory from the willing keys. Old hungers 
Will break their coffins, rise to eat and thank. 
And music, warily, like the golden rose 
That sometimes after sunset warms the west, 
Will warm that room, persuasively suffuse 
That room and me, rejuvenate a past. 
But suddenly, across my climbing fever 
Of proud delight a multiplying cry. 
A cry of bitter dead men who will never 
Attend a gentle maker of musical joy. 
Then my thawed eye will go again to ice. 
And stone will shove the softness from my face. 



HERE AND NOW 88 
by Catharine Cater 

If here and now be but a timely span 
Between today's unhappiness, tomorrow's 
Joys, what if today s abundant sorrows 
Never end, tomorrow never comes, what then? 

^From A Street in Bronzeville, by Gwendolyn Brooks, copyright, 1945, by Gwen~ 
dolyn Brooks Blakely. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Brothers. 
^From Phylon, with special permission of the author. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 193 



If youth, impatient of the disrespect 
Accorded it, yearns to be old, 
Age chafes beneath the manifold 
Losses of its prime and mourns neglect; 

So let it be for here and now, my dear, 
Not for the when of an eternity; 
No gazer in the crystal ball can see 
The future* as we see the now and here. 



TO AN AVENUE SPORT 
by Helen Johnson Collins 



Here lies the street of the three balls 

the BUY, TRADE, SELL 

your new suit that cost too much, 

the loaded dice that overplayed their luck, 

the cow-hide grip that should have left the town 

with you that night when hell 

played boogie-woogie at a card game. 

Here lies . . . but what do you care now 

for shining switchblades, roadsters, 

and flashy women always tuning in 

on some man's heart, picking his bankroll 

to chicken bones and lashing him 

with whips of harpy-laughter? 

The stakes were high in your crazy race of life, 

and you were in the lead . . . pompous, grand . . 

until a knife 

pierced you out of jealousy 

and you fell 

scattering your winning hand! 



194 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



BLUES FOR BESSIE 84 
by Myron O'Higgins 



Bessie Smith, the greatest of the early blues singers, 

died violently after an auto accident 

while on a theatrical tour of the South in 1937. 

The newspapers reported that she bled to death 

when the only hospital in the vicinity 

refused her emergency medical attention 

because she was a Negro woman. 



Let de peoples know (unnh) 

what dey did in dat Southern Town 
Let de peoples know 

what dey did in dat Southern Town 
Well, dey lef po' Bessie dyin' 

wid de blood (Lawd) a-streamin* down 



Bessie lef Chicago 

in a bran' new Cadillac; 

didn' take no suitcase 

but she wore her mournin' black (unnh) 
Bessie, Bessie, 

she wore her mournin* black 
She went ridin' down to Dixie (Lawd) 

an' dey shipped her body back 

Lawd, wasn't it a turrTble 

when dat rain come down 
Yes, wasn't it a turr'ble 

when de rain come down 
An' ol* Death caught po' Bessie 

down in 'at Jim Crow town 

"From Portfolio, Paris, France, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 195 

Well, de thunder rolled 

an' de lightnin' broke de sky 
Lawd, de thunder rolled 

an* de lightnin' broke de sky 
An' you could hear po' Bessie moanin', 

"Gret Gawd, please doan lemme die!" 

She holler, "Lawd, please hep me!", 

but He never heerd a word she say 
Holler, "Please, somebody hep me!", 

but dey never heerd a word she say 
Frien', when yo' luck run out in Dixi^ 

well, it doan do no good to pray 

Well, dey give po' Bessie 

to de undertaker man; 

oF Death an' Jim Crow ( Lawd ) 

done de job, hand in han* 
Well, Bessie, Bessie, 

she won't sing de blues no mo' 
Cause dey let her go down bloody (Lawd) 

trav'lin' from door to do' 

Bessie lef Chicago 

in a bran' new Cad'lac Eight 
Yes, Bessie lef Chicago 

in a gret big Cad'lac Eight 
But dey shipped po' Bessie back (Lawd) 

on dat lonesome midnight freight 

Lawd, let de peoples know 

what dey did in dat Southern Town 
Yes, let de peoples know 

what dey did in dat Southern Town 
Well, dey lef po' Bessie dyin* 

wid de blood (Lawd) a-streamin' down 



196 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



TWO LEAN CATS . 
by Myron O'Higgins 



I remember Wednesday was the day 
the rain came down in ragged jets 
and made a grave along my street . . 

And Friday was the day that brought 
impatient winds to swell the 
blood-stained garments on my line 

But that day in between 

comes back with two lean cats 

who run in checkered terror 

through a poolroom door 

and bolting from a scream 

a keen knife marks with sudden red 

the gaming green 

... a purple billiard ball 

explodes the color scheme. 



YOUNG POET 86 

by Myron O'Higgins 

Somebody, 

Cut his hair 

And send him out to play. 

Someone, 

While there is time, 

Call him down from his high place. 

^From The Lion and the Archer. Counterpoise Series, No. 1. Special permission 
of the author. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 197 

Tell him, ( 

Before terror marks his face, 
He will belong to the hunted. 

Say 

He will be betrayed, 

Or high on some fruited hill 

Die naked with thieves. 

Go to him 

While fire is in his flesh: 

Take him whole 

And kiss his young mouth into wisdom 

And healing. 



SUNSET HORN 87 
by Myron O'Higgins 

"Enduring peace is the only monument civilization can raise 
to the millions who have perished in its cause" 



Block the cannon; let no trumpets sound! 
Our power is manifest in other glory; 
Our flesh in this contested slope of ground. 

In thin silences we lie, pale strangers to the corn-gold morning, 
Repeating what the fathers told . . . the promised legacy of tall sons; 
The hushed sibilants of peace; and the far tomorrow on the hills. 

O we went quickly or a little longer 
And for a space saw caste and categories, creeds and race 
Evaporate into the, flue of common circumstance. 
We sought transcendent meaning for our struggle, 
"From Motive. With special permission of the author. 



198 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And in that rocking hour, each minute, each narrow second 

Fell upon us like a rain of knives. 

We grappled here an instant, then singly, or in twos or tens, or by be- 
wildered hundreds, 

Were pulverized . . . Reduced . . . Wiped out- 
Made uniform and equal! 

And let us tell you this: 

Death is indiscriminate . . . and easier . . . than sorrow, fear, or 
fallen pride. 

There is no road back. We rest in ultimates; 

In calmness come abrupt by bomb, or bullet, or abbreviated dream; 

With conflicts spent. 

This stark convergent truth continues, 

Linking us through slim unseen dimensions we to you, we to you . . . 



II 

While you cry Victory! or Surrender! 
Turn these figures in the head, 
Clean impersonal round numbers, 
Ordered inventory of the dead. 

Regard these slender nines and ones; 

These trailing threes and fives; these fours and sevens, bent and angular; 

Delicately drawn, divided into ranks by commas, 

Staggered down the page in regimented squads and columns: 

These are our mute effigies, trim and shining, 

Passing in review . . . 

O, Drummer, obediently we come, 
Down through the assassin's street, 
The company of death in splendid array! . . . 

But leave us to the terrible fields. 

Yours is the pomp of brasses, the counterfeit peace, the dynasty of 

lies . . . 

We are but dabs of flesh blown to the cliffs, 

Or ragged stumps of legs that moved too slowly toward the brush. 
And our song: we joined no swelling harmony of voices. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A* 199 

Those final incoherent sounds we made; 

Those startled oaths that bubbled through the blood bogged in our 

throats; 

That last falsetto cry of terror; 
Were a jagged threnody, swallowed whole and drowned in cacophonic 

floods. 
This was our sunset horn . . . 

Let these be added with the spoils for quick division! 
Set these down in sharp italics on the page 
For scholars' documents! 



777 

Raise no vain monuments; bury us down! 

Our power is manifest in other glory; 

Our flesh in this contested slope of ground. 

There is no more but these, a legacy, a grim prediction . . . 

Let the scent and sounds of death go limp 

And flounder in the valleys and the streets. 

And for those crafty onesthose who speak our names in brief profes- 
sional remembrance 

To garner votes and profits, or practice quick extortion- 
Let other music find their ears. 

And give them for a souvenir this clown's disguise 

Of swastikas and Roman standards, of scythes and suns and dollar 
signs . . . 

One day the rest of you will know the meaning of annihilation. 

And the hills will rock with voltage; 

And the forests burn like a flaming broom; 

And the stars explode and drop like cinders on the land. 

And these steel cities where no love is 

You shall see them fall and vanish in a thunder of erupting suns! 

O you shall know; and in that day, traveler, O in that day 
When the tongues confound, and breath is total in the horn, 
Your judas eyes, seeking truth at last, will search for us 
And borrow ransom from this bowel of violence! 



200 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

JOURNEY TO A PARALLEL 

Summer- 1 947 
by Bruce McM. Wright 

I remember distinctly the tired tumult of my urges 

and the sun shining, and the dust, and the clouds, 

and'how I turned my rifle down; 

I remember the cow stinking in the street 

and a woman sweeping dung, 

and Prague and Pilsen just forty kilometers: 

I recall that songs were sung, 

attention stood, allegiance re-asserted, 

and I saw two cplonels cry. 

There was a first night of awkward peace 

with pillows 

trimmed in bohmisch lace, lettered schlafe wohl, . 

and hugged into humanity: 

I trembled, and felt quite old. 

How distant is any day, 
How many hurts away? 

And there were Prague and Pilsen, 
and I, 

having dug holes in history, 
stretched out alive 
on the Continent with Paris- 
just some wars and worlds removed 
from Miss Up John's geography and P.S. 89, 
and all the things she never taught me. 
I remember, though, that Sheffield made 
fine cutlery, 

and coal was made at Newcastle, 
and dry-docks at Southampton: 
I should have known that France had beaches, 
that Normandy must be noted for this, or that, 
plus D-Day, plus one, plus two, plus et cetera, 
and divers things from Carentan to Mons. 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 201 

I should have known of Omaha 
And Utah- 
American Indian hinterlands 
as French as Bar-le-Duc; 
But Miss Upjohn was a virgin, 
then a spinster; 

she shied away from Flesh and French facts, 
she disapproved of certain acts: 
Between us there can be no bond, 
Now that I can teach Upjohn. 



THE AFRICAN AFFAIR 
by Bruce McM. Wright 



Black is what the prisons are, 
The stagnant vortex of the hours 
Swept into totality, 
Creeping in the perjured heart, 
Bitter in the vulgar rhyme, 
Bitter on the walls; 



Black is where the devils dance 

With time within 

The creviced wall. Time pirouettes , 

A crippled orbit in a trance, 

And crawls below, beneath the flesh 

Where darkness flows; 



Black is where the deserts burn, 
The Niger and Sasandra flow, 
From where the Middle Passage went 
Within the Continent of Night 
From Cameroons to Carisbrooke 
And places conscience cannot go; 



202 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Black is where thatched temples burn 
Incense to carved ebon-wood; 
Where traders shaped my father's pain, 
His person and his place, 
Among dead statues in a frieze, 
In the spectrum of his race. 



PORTRAIT PHILIPPINES 
by Alfred A. Duckctt 



The Philippines were drenched in sun. 
The maidens, gold and brown. 
But children cried with hunger 
When the angry sun went down. 

Children laughed and sang and danced 
all the livelong day. 
At night they begged for garbage 
the soldiers cast away. 



SONNET 

by Alfred A. Duckett 



Where are we to go when this is done? 
Will we slip into old, accustomed ways, 
finding remembered notches, one by one? 
Thrashing a hapless way through quickening haze? 

Who is to know us when the end has come? 
Old friends and families, but could we be 
strange to the sight and stricken dumb 
at visions of some pulsing memory? 

Who will love us for what we used to be 
who now are what we are, bitter or cold? 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 203 



Who is to nurse us with swift subtlety 
back to the warm and feeling human fold? 

Where are we to go when this is through? 
We are the war-born. What are we to do? 



SONG 

by M. Carl Holman 



Dressed up in my melancholy 
With no place to go, 
Sick as sin of inwardness 
And sick of being so 

I walked out on the avenue, 
Eager to give my hand 
To any with the health to heal 
Or heart to understand. 

I had not walked a city block 
And met with more than ten 
Before I read the testament 
Stark behind each grin: 

Beneath the hat brims haunting me, 
More faithful than a mirror, 
The figuration of my grief, 
The image of my error. 



NOTES FOR A MOVIE SCRIPT 
by M. Carl Holman 

Fade in the sound of summer music, 

Picture a hand plunging through her hair, 

Next his socked feet and her scuffed dance slippers 

Close, as they kiss on the rug-stripped stair. 



204 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Catch now the taxi from the station, 
Capture her shoulders' sudden sag; 
Switch to him silent in the barracks 
While the room roars at the corporal's gag. 

Let the drums dwindle in the distance, 
Pile the green sea above the land; 
While she prepares a single breakfast, 
Reading the v-mail in her hand. 

Ride a cold moonbeam to the pillbox, 
Sidle the camera to his feet 
Sprawled just outside in the gummy grasses, 
Swollen like nightmare and not neat. 

Now doorbell nudges the lazy morning: 

She stills the sweeper for a while, 

Twitches her dress, swings the screendoor open, 

Cutwith no music on her smile. 



LETTER ACROSS DOUBT AND DISTANCE 
by M. Carl Hoi man 

I dreamed all my fortitude screamed 

And fled down the strict corridor, 

Entered in greedy and unashamed 

At the seductive door; 

Or your eyes winked from the tabloid, 

Your silence raised a wraith 

Which lured me nearer that void 

Where fact prepares its ambuscade for faith. 

Carved keen in the spring-green bark 
Your long absence does not congeal, 
No cement sutures the cruel crack 
Where the hot sap weeps still 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 205 

And will furrow and blister this sand 

Though vanes claim weather is north 

Until your gifted hand 

Heals the shocked tissues and late buds flame forth: 

O girl waking now where the swirl 

Of gulls scatters across white hulls 

And the wind hurtling the marshy field 

Spurs the green bay into hills, 

All my pain falls at your power, 

Slacks and comes softly to rest. 

Calmed, as that gray church tower 

Checks the wild pigeons taking them to breast. 



AND ON THIS SHORE 
by M. Carl Holman 



Alarm and time clock still intrude too early, 
Sun on the lawns at morning is the same, 
Across the cups we yawn at private murders, 
Accustomed causes leave us gay or glum. 

( I feel the streaming wind in my eyes, 

the highway swimming under the floor, 

music flung comically over the hills, 

Remember your profile, your pilot's body at ease, 

the absolute absence of boredom, the absence of fear) 

The swingshift workers are snoring at noon, 
The armywife's offspring dumb in his crib, 
The private, patron of blackmarket still, 
Sleeps long past reveille stark on his slab. 

( The chimes were musing far beyond soft hills, 
I brushed an ant from your arm, 
The leaves lifted, shifted like breathing to pour 
Light on your lids, seemed then no end of time) 



206 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The streets re-wind to spools of home, 
Dials usher in the bland newscaster, 
From the mail box's narrow room 
Lunges the cobra of disaster. 

(Kissed and were happy at the door, 
showered, pretending this would last, 
Stones down dead wells, the calendar 
counts summers that are lost, are lost) 



II 



Is it yourself he loves 

Or the way you arranged your hair? 

The book which taught you to listen while he talked? 

The cute dance steps and that night on the Navy pier? 

Did he see yours or another's face when he waked? 

On what does this shadow feed 

And shall it not fade? 

Is it yourself she loves 

Or the easy-come money you breezily spend? 

The 4-F, convertible, "A" coupons, dark market Scotch? 

Would she stick if she found she could interest your friend: 

When the man on her dresser returns will you prove his match? 

On what does this shadow feed 

And shall it not fade? 

Is it yourself they love 

Or the victories panted with vibrant voice? 

(Mellow for brave boys sleeping their last long sleep) 

Will sponsor and fan abide when bulletins burst in your face, 

Raw stumps and barricades explode through the map? 

On what does this shadow feed, 

And shall it not fade? 

Is it yourself they love, 

You brief-cased and lens-familiar, 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 207 

Invoking spring from the smoke of our heaviest winter? 
Their mouths adore but fangs may lurk for anger; 
Watching night wither do you not sometimes wonder 
On what does this shadow feed 
And shall it not fade? 



REFUGEE 

by Naomi Long Witherspoon 

Say, bud, ya got a cigarette? 
Yeah, man, dot's ALL I got! 
Go 'way! I ain't got even that. 
A cigarette's a lot. 

I had a home, a wife and kid, 
And I was ridin' high. 
Along came white Jim from the hill 
And said I had to die. 

He toF da law his po' white wife 
Had suffered by my gang. 
When Manny came to tip me off, 
He said: Skip town or hang! 

I lef my wife, my little kid, 
And Nineteen Cherry Street, 
And in da moonless Georgia night 
I moved my weary feet. 

When I remember Cherry Street 
It hurts me to da bone. 
But hell! I'm here up North alive, 
Although I am alone. 

Ain't got no job, no fine blue suit, 
No new ten-gallon hat. 
I only got one cigarette 
You might as well take that. 



2O8 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



POEM 

by Russell Atkins 

Upstood upstaffed passing sinuously away over an airy arch 

Streaming where all the lustres 

Streaming sinuously shone 

bright where more sky 
Upstood upstaffed the sumptuously ready 

flags full 

(the shaded soothed and blowing softly 

the underlings smoothly 

with horses wavering with winds gently 

and smooth the men and manners soft 

tangling with manly manners thick 

gathering the steeds) that 

forthwith 

up up 

Christophe 

appearing in the imminent 

and the passion overjoying the hour 

unfolded flaming for 
Highly the imperial sign 

shone in his huge glory! 



FOR WILLIAM EDWARD BURGHARDT DUBOIS 

ON HIS EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY 
by Bette Darcie Latimer 

He does not lounge with the old men 
on their thrones in the sun. . . , 



I have awakened from the unknowing to the knowing 
hoping to see the fathomless. . . . 



NEGRO POETS OF THE U.S.A. 209 

But I saw the old men 
on their thrones in the sun, 
with aged eyes 
and dust in their beards. 

Mixed with the shadows, 
veiled and unthroned, 
the brown one smiles. 

I meet them at the turnpike, 

but they point signward, 

waving the crutches of empty years. 

The brown one, smiling, led me on 
with wisdom as a sturdy cane. 
"The masterpiece is there," he said 
and the dread beauty of living 
crushed us into reverence. 



2 



TRIBUTARY POEMS 
BY NON-NEGROES 



THE RUNAWAY SLAVE 1 

From Song of Myself 
by Walt Whitman 

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside, 

I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile, 

Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak, 

And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him, 

And brought water and fill'd a tub for his sweated body and bruis'd 

feet, 
And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him some 

coarse clean clothes, 

And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness, 
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles; 
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass'd North, 
I had him sit next me at table. . . . 



THE WOUNDED PERSON 2 
From Song of Myself 
by Walt Whitman 

The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blowing, 

cover'd with sweat, 
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous 

buckshot and the bullets, 
All these I feel or am. 

I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs, 

Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen, 

I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with the ooze of 

my skin, 

I fall on the weeds and stones, 
The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close, 
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip- 

stocks. 



Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. Reprinted by permission of Double- 
day & Company, Inc. 



214 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Agonies are one of my changes of garments. 

I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the 
wounded person. 



THE DRAYMAN 3 

From Song of Myself 
by Walt Whitman 

The Negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags 
underneath on its tied-over chain, 

The Negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and tall 
he stands pois'd on one leg on the stringpiece, 

His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over his 
hip-band. 

His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of. his hat 
away from his forehead, 

The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of his 
polish'd and perfect limbs. 

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop there, 

I go with the team also. 

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as for- 
ward sluing, 

To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing, 

Absorbing all to myself and for this song. 



ETHIOPIA SALUTING THE COLORS* 

From Drum-Taps 
by Walt Whitman 

Who are you dusky woman, so ancient hardly human, 

With your woolly-white and turban'd head, and bare bony feet? 

Why rising by the roadside here, do you the colors greet? 

s '*From Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. Reprinted by permission of Double- 
day & Company, Inc. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 215 

(Tis while our army lines Carolina's sands and pines, 
Forth from thy hovel door thou Ethiopia com'st to me, 
As under doughty Sherman I march toward the sea.) 

Me master years a hundred since from my parents sunder d, 
A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught, 
Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver brought. 

No further does she say, but lingering all the day, 

Her high-borne turban'd head she wags, and rolls her darkling eye; 

And courtesies to the regiments, the guidons moving by. 

What is it fateful woman, so blear, hardly human? 

Why wag your head with turban bound, yellow, red and green? 

Are the things so strange and marvelous you see or have seen? 



THE LITTLE BLACK BOY 
by William Blake 

My mother bore me in the southern wild, 
And I am black, but O! my soul is white; 
White as an angel is the English child, 
But I am black, as if bereav'd of light. 

My mother taught me underneath a tree, 
And sitting down before the heat of day, 
She took me on her lap and kissed me, 
And, pointing to the east, began to say: 

"Look on the rising sun, there God does live, 
And gives his light, and gives his heat away; 
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive 
Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday. 

"And we are put on earth a little space, 
That we may learn to bear the beams of love; 
And these black bodies and this sunburnt face 
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove. 



216 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



"For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear, 
The cloud will vanish; we shall hear his voice, 
Saying: 'Come out from the grove, my love and care, 
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice/ " 

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me; 

And thus I say to little English boy: 

When I from black, and he from white cloud free, 

And round the tent of God like lambs we joy, 

I'll shade him from the heat, till he can bear 
To lean in joy upon our Father's knee; 
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair, 
And be like him, and he will then love me. 

(1789) 



THE RUNAWAY SLAVE AT PILGRIM'S POINT 
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning 



I stand on the mark, beside the shore, 

Of the first white pilgrim's bended knee; 

Where exile turned to ancestor, 
And God was thanked for liberty. 

I have run through the night my skin is as dark- 
I bend my knee down on this mark 

I look on the sky and the sea. 



II 



O, pilgrim-souls, I speak to you: 
I see you come out proud and slow 

From the land of the spirits, pale as dew, 
And round me and round me ye go. 

O, pilgrims, I have gasped and run 
All night long from the whips of one 

Who in your names works sin and woe! 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 217 
III 

And thus I thought that I would come 

And kneel here where ye knelt before, 
And feel your souls around me hum 

In undertone to the ocean's roar; 
And lift my black face, my black hand, 

Here in your names, to curse this land 
Ye blessed in Freedom's heretofore. 



IV 



VI 



I am black, I am black, 

And yet God made me, they say: 
But if He did so smiling back 

He must have cast his work away 
Under the feet of His white creatures 

With a look of scorn, that the dusky features 
Might be trodden again to clay. 



And yet He has made dark things 

To be glad and merry as light; 
There's a little dark bird sits and sings; 

There's a dark stream ripples out of sight; 
And the dark frogs chant in the safe morass, 

And the sweetest stars are made to pass 
O'er the face of the darkest night. 



But we who are dark, we are dark! 
Ah God, we have no stars! 



218 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

About our souls, in care and cark ? 

Our blackness shuts like prison-bars! 
The poor souls crouch so far behind, 

That never a comfort can they find, 
By reaching through the prison bars. 



VII 



VIII 



And still God's sunshine and His frost 
They make us hot, they make us cold, 

As if we were not black and lost; 
And the beasts and birds in wood and fold, 

Do fear us and take us for very men; 
Could the weep-poor-will or the cat of the glen 

Look into my eyes and be bold? 



I am black, I am black, 

And once I laughed in girlish glee; 
For one of my colour stood in the track 

Where the drivers drove, and looked at me; 
And tender and full was the look he gave! 

A Slave looked so at another Slave, 
I look at the sky and the sea. 



And from that hour our spirits grew 

As free as if unsold, unbought; 
We were strong enough, since we were two, 

To conquer die world, we thought. 
The drivers drove us day by day: 

We did not mind; we went one way, 
And no better a freedom sought. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 



In the sunny ground between the canes, 

He said "I love you" as he passed 
When the shingle-roof rang sharp with the rains, 

I heard how he vowed it fast, 
While other trembled, he sat in the hut 

And carved me a bowl of the cocoa-nut 
Through the roar of the hurricanes. 



XI 



I sang his name instead of a song; 

Over and over I sang his name. 
Upward and downward I drew it along 

My notes, the same, the same! 
I sang it low, that the slave-girls near 

Might never guess, from aught they could hear, 
It was only a name a name. 



XII 



I look on the sky and the sea! 

We were two to love, and two to pray,- 
Yes, two, O God, who cried to Thee, 

Though nothing didst Thou say, 
Coldly Thou sat'st behind the sun, 

And now I cry, who am but one, 
Thou wilt not speak to-dayl 



XIII 



We were black, we were black, 
We had no claim to love and bliss 



220 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

What marvel, if each went to wrack? 

They wrung my cold hands out of his 
They dragged him where, I crawled to touch 

His blood's mark in the dust not much, 
Ye pilgrim-souls, though plain as THIS! 



XIV 



Wrong, followed by a deeper wrong! 

Mere griefs too good for such as I; 
So the white men brought the shame ere long 

To strangle the sob of my agony. 
They would not leave me for my dull 

Wet eyes! it was too merciful 
To let me weep pure tears, and die. 



I am black, I am black! 

I wore a child upon my breast, 
An amulet that hung too slack, 

And, in my unrest, could not rest! 
Thus we went moaning, child and mother, 

One to another, one to another. 
Until all ended for the best. 



XVI 



For hark! I will tell you low-low 

I am black, you see; 
And the babe, that lay on my bosom so, 

Was far too white too white for me, 
As white as the ladies who scorned to pray 

Beside me at the church but yesterday, 
Though my tears had washed a place for my knee. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 221 

XVII 

My own, own child I could not bear 

To look in his face, it was so white; 
I covered him up with a kerchief there; 

I covered his face in close and tight! 
And he moaned and struggled as well as might be, 

For the white child wanted his liberty, 
Ha, ha! he wanted the master-right. 



XVIII 



He moaned and beat with his head and feet 

His little feet that never grew! 
He struck them out as it was meet 

Against my heart to break it through. 
I might have sung and made him mild, 

But I dared not sing to the white faced child 
The only song I knew. 



XIX 



I pulled the kerchief very close; 

He could not see the sun, I swear, 
More then, alive, than now he does 

From between the roots of the mango where? 
I know where close! a child and mother 

Do wrong to look at one another 
When one is black and one is fair. 



XX 



Even in that single glance I had 
Of my child's face, I tell you all, 



222 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

I saw a look that made me mad, 
The masters look, that used to fall 

On my soul like his lash, or worse, 
And so, to save it from my curse, 

I twisted it round in my shawl. 



XXI 



And he moaned and trembled from foot to head, 

He shivered from head to f oot, 
Till after a time, he lay, instead, 

Too suddenly still and mute; 
And I felt, beside, a creeping cold, 

I dared to lift up just a fold, 
As in lifting a leaf of the mango-fruit 



XXII 



But my fruit! ha, ha! there, had been 

(I laugh to think on't at this hour!) 
Your fine white angels, who have been 

Nearest the secret of God's power 
And plucked my fruit to make them wine, 

And sucked the soul of that child of mine, 
As the humming-bird sucks the soul of the flower. 



XXIII 



Ha, ha! the trick of the angels whitel 
They freed the white child's spirit so; 

I said not a word but day and night 
I carried the body to and fro; 

And it lay on my heart like a stone as chill; 
The sun may shine out as much as he will, 

I am cold, though it happened a month ago. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 223 
XXIV 

From the white man's house and the black man's hut, 

I carried the little body on; 
The forest's arms did around us shut, 

And silence through the trees did run! 
They asked no questions as I went, 

They stood too high for astonishment, 
They could see God sit on his throne. 



XXV 



My little body, kerchief -fast, 

I bore it on through the forest on 
And when I felt it was tired at last, 

I scooped a hole beneath the moon. 
Through the forest-tops the angels far, 

With a white sharp finger in every star 
Did point and mock at what was done. 



XXVI 



Yet when it all was done aright, 

Earth twixt me and my baby strewed, 

All, changed to black earth, nothing white 
A dark child in the darkensued 

Some comfort, and my heart grew young; 
I sate down smiling there, and sung 

The song I learnt in my maidenhood. 



XXVII 



And thus we two were reconciled, 

The white child and black mother, thus; 



224 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

For, as I sang it, soft and wild, 
The same song, more melodious, 

Rose from the grave whereon I sat! 
It was the dead child singing that, 

To join the souls of both of us. 



XXVIII 

I look on the sea and the sky! 

Where the pilgrims' ships first anchored lay, 
The great sun rideth gloriously! 

But the pilgrim-ghosts have slid away 
Through the first faint streaks of the morn! 

My face is black, but it glares with a scorn 
Which they dare not meet by day. 



XXIX 



Ah! in their stead their hunter sons! 

Ah, ah! they are on me! they form in a ring! 
Keep off I brave you all at once, 

I throw off your eyes like snakes that sting! 
You have killed the black eagle at nest, I think; 

Did you ever stand still in your triumph, and shrink 
From the stroke of her wounded wing? 



XXX 



(Man, drop that stone you dared to lift!) 
I wish you, who stand there, five abreast, 

Each, for his own wife's joy and gift, 
A little corpse as safely at rest, 

As mine in the mangoes! Yes, but she 
May keep live babies on her knee, 

And sing the song she likes the best. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 225 



XXXI 



I am not mad, I am black! 

I see you staring in my face, 
I know you staring, shrinking back, 

Ye are born of the Washington-race! 
And this land is the Free America, 

And this mark on my wrist, -(I prove what I say) 
Ropes tied me up here to the flogging place. 



XXXII 



You think I shrieked then? not a sound! 

I hung as a gourd hangs in the sun; 
I only cursed them all around 

As softly as I might have done 
My very own child. From these sands 

Up to the mountains, lift your hands, 
O slaves, and end what I begun. 



XXXIII 



Whips, curses! these must answer those! 

For in this Union, ye have set 
Two kinds of men in adverse rows, 

Each loathing each! and all forget 
The seven wounds in Christ's body fair; 

While he sees gaping everywhere 
Our countless wounds that pay no debt. 



XXXIV 



Our wounds are different your white men 
Are, after all, not gods indeed. 



226 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Nor able to make Christs again 

Do good with bleeding. We who bleed, 
(Stand off!} we help not in our loss 

We are too heavy for our cross, 
And fall and crush you and your seed. 



XXXV 



I fall, I swoon, I look at the sky! 

The clouds are breaking on my brain: 
I am floated along, as if I should die 

Of Liberty's exquisite pain! 
In the name of the white child waiting for me 

In the death-dark where we may kiss and agree 
White men, I leave you all curse-free, 

In my broken heart's disdain! 



TO TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE 
by William Wordsworth 

TOUSSAINT, the most unhappy man of men! 
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough 
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now 
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den; 
O miserable Chieftain! where and when 
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou 
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow: 
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again, 
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind 
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies; 
There's not a breathing of the common wind 
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies; 
Thy friends are exultations, agonies, 
And love, and man's unconauerable mind. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 227 

TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE 5 

Chateau de Joux, 1 803 
by Edwin Arlington Robinson 

Am I alone or is it you, my friend? 

I call you friend, but let it not be known 

That such a word was uttered in this place. 

You are the first that has forgotten duty 

So far as to be sorryand perilously, 

For you that I am not so frozen yet, 

Or starved, or blasted, that I cannot feel. 

Yes, I can feel, and hear. I can hear something 

Behind me. Is it you? There is no light, 

But there's a gray place where a window was 

Before the sun went down. Was there a sun? 

There must have been one; for there was a light, 

Or sort of light enough to make me see 

That I was here alone. Was I forgotten? 

I have been here alone now for three days, 

Without you, and with nothing here to eat 

Or drink; and for God knows how many months, 

Or years, before you came, have I been here 

But never alone so long. You must be careful, 

Or they will kill you if they hear you asking 

Questions of me as if I were a man. 

I did not know that there was anything left 

Alive to see me, or to consider me, 

As more than a transplanted shovelful 

Of black earth, with a seed of danger in it 

A seed that's not there now, and never was. 

When was I dangerous to Napoleon? 

Does a perfidious victor fear the victim 

That he has trapped and harassed? No, he hates him. 

The only danger that was ever in me 

Was food that his hate made to feed itself. 

B From Nicodemus, copyright, 1932, by Edwin Arlington Robinson; used by per- 
mission of The Macmillan Company, New York, and Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 
London. 



228 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

There lives in hate a seed more dangerous 

To man, I fear, than any in time's garden 

That has not risen to full stalk and flower 

In history yet, I am glad now for being 

So like a child as to believe in him 

As long as there was hope. And what was hope? 

Hope was a pebble I brought here to play with, 

And might as well have dropped into the ocean 

Before there was a bitter league of it 

Between me and rriy island. It was well 

Not to do that. Not that it matters now. 

My friend, I do not hear you any longer. 

Are you still there? Are you afraid to speak? 

You are the first thing fashioned as a man 

That has acknowledged me since I came here 

To die, as I see nowwith word or motion 

Of one man in the same world with another; 

And you may be afraid of saying to me 

Some word that hurts your tongue. Have they invented 

A last new misery fit for the last days 

Of an old sick black man who says tonight 

He does not think that he shall have to live 

Much longer now? If there were left in me 

A way to laugh, I might as well be laughing 

To think of that. Say to Napoleon 

That he has made an end of me so slowly, 

And thoroughly, that only God Almighty 

Shall say what is to say. And if God made him, 

And made him as he is, and has to be, 

Say who shall answer for a world where men 

Are mostly blind, and they who are the blindest 

Climb to cold heights that others cannot reach, 

And there, with all there is for them to see, 

See nothing but themselves. I am not one 

To tell you about that, for I am only 

A man destroyed, a sick man, soon to die; 

A man betrayed, who sees his end a ruin, 

Yet cannot see that he has lived in vain. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 229 

Though he was crushed and humbled at the last 
As things are that are crawling in man's way, 
He was a man. God knows he was a man, 
And tells him so tonight. Another man 
Mixed fear with power and hate and made of it 
A poison that was death, and more than death. 
And strangled me to make me swallow it 
And here I am. I shall not be here long 
To trouble you; and I shall not forget 
Your seeing in me a remnant of mankind. 
And not a piece of God's peculiar clay 
Shaped as a reptile, or as a black snake. 
A black man, to be sure; and that's important. 

I cannot tell you about God, my friend, 

But in my life I have learned more of men 

Than would be useful now, or necessary, 

If a man's Life were only a man's life. 

Sometimes it is, or looks to be, no better 

Than a weed growing to be crushed or cut, 

Or at the most and best, or worst, to live 

And shrivel and slowly die and be forgotten. 

Others are not like that; and it appears 

That mine was not. Mine was a million lives, 

And millions after them. Why am I here! 

What have I done to die in a cold hole 

In a cold land that has no need of me? 

Men have been mightier than in doing this thing 

To me, I think. Yet who am I to say it? 

An exile, buried alive in a cold grave 

For serving man, as men may still remember. 

There are diseased and senseless ways of hate 

That puzzle me partly because I'm black, 

Perhaps, though more because of things that are, 

And shall be, and for God may say how long. 

Hear me, and I will tell you a strange thing 
Which may be new and of an interest 



230 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

To many who may not know so much of me 

As even my name until my name shall have 

A meaning in this world's unhappy story. 

Napoleon cannot starve my name to death, 

Or blot it out with his. There is an island 

Where men remember me; and from an island 

Surprising freight of dreams and deeds may come, 

To make men think. Is it not strange, my friend 

If you are there that one dishonored slave, 

One animal owned and valued at a price, 

One black commodity, should have seen so early 

All that I saw? When I filled sight with action, 

I could see tyranny's blood-spattered eyes 

That saw no farther, laughing at God and fate, 

Than a day's end, or possibly one day more, 

Until I made them see. Was it not strange? 

Drivers and governors of multitudes 

Must be more than themselves, and have more eyes 

Than one man's eyes, or scorn will bury them, 

Or leave them worse uncovered; and time will pass them 

Only to kick their bones. I could see that; 

And my prophetic eyes, where God had fixed them 

In this black face, could see in front of them 

A flaming shambles of men's ignorance 

Of all that men should know. I could see farther; 

And in a world far larger than my island 

Could see the foul indifferent poison wreaking 

Sorrow and death and useless indignation 

On millions who are waiting to be born; 

And this because the few that have the word 

Are mostly the wrong few in the wrong places. 

On thrones or chairs of state too high for them, 

Where they sit swollen or seated, or both, as may be, 

They watch, unseen, a diligent see-saw 

Played by their privileged and especial slaves 

On slippery planks that shake and smell of blood 

That flows from crushed and quivering backs and arms 

Of slaves that hold them up. There are more slaves 

Than have yet felt or are to feel, and know it, 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY HOH-NEGROES 231 

An iron or a lash. This will go on 
Until more slaves like me, and more, and more, 
Throw off their shackles and make swords of them 
For those to feel who have not felt before, 
And will not see. It will go on as long 
As men capitulate who feel and see, 
And men who know say nothing. If this means 
It must go on for alwayswell I have done 
All that one man one black man, I should say- 
Could do against a madness and a system 
And a malicious policy, all rotten 
With craft and hate. It will be so again: 
Humanity will hear the lash of scorn 
And ignorance again falling on hope, 
And hearing it will feel it. Ignorance, 
Always a devil, is a father of devils 
When it has power and fire and hate to play with, 
And goes down with the noise of its own house 
Falling, always too late to save itself, 
Because it has no eyes. That's power, my friend. 
If you are sorry to be born without it, 
Be sorry for something else, and answer me: 
Is power a breaking down of flesh and spirit? 
Is foresight a word lost with a lost language? 
Is honor incomprehensible? Is it strange, 
That I should sit here and say this to you 
Here in the dark? . . . Nothing to eat or drink, 
Nothing to do but die? This is not right. . . . 
Hear me, and I will tell you what I saw. 

Last night I saw Napoleon in hell. 
He was not dead, but I knew where he was, 
For there was fire and death surrounding him 
Like red coals ringed around a scorpion 
To make him sting himself rather than burn. 
Napoleon burned. I saw his two hands flaming; 
And while I saw him I could see that hate 
For me was still alive in his blind eyes. 
I was no happier for the sight of him, 



232 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

For that would not help me; and I had seen 
Too much already of crime and fire at work 
Before I made an end of it for him 
To make of peace a useless waste and fury. 
I have not yet gone mad, for I have known 
That I was right. It seems a miracle, 
Yet I am not so sure it is a mercy 
That I have still my wits and memories 
For company in this place. I saw him there, 
And his hands that were flaming with a fire 
They caught from the same fire that they had lighted. 
So fire will act, sometimes, apparently. 
Well, there he was, and if I'm not in error, 
He will be there again before he dies; 
And that will not be medicine here for this. 
There is no cure for this, except to die, 
\ And there is nothing left that is worth hating 
Not even the hate of him that kills with hate. 
Is it that I am weak or am I wise? 
Can a black man be wise? He would say not. 
Having his wisdom, he would have to say it 
To keep his hate alive; and without that 
He would soon hate the sound of his own name. 
Prisons have tongues, and this will all be told; 
And it will not sound well when men remember. 

Where are you now? Is this another night? 

Another day and now another night? 

I do not hear you any more, my friend. 

Where are you? Were you ever here at all? 

I have been here alone now for too long. 

They will not let you come to me again 

Until you come to carry a dead man. 

I see it now out of this cold and darkness 

To a place where black and white are dark together. 

Nothing to eat or drink nothing to do 

But wait, and die. No, it will not sound well. 

Where are you now, my friend? I cannot hear you; 

I cannot feel you. Are you dead, perhaps? 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 233 

I said to you it would be perilous 

Not to remember that I'm not a man, 

But an imprudent piece of merchandise 

To buy and sell or this time rather to steal; 

To catch and steal, and carry from my island 

To France, and to this place. And in this place, 

Is it not strange, my friend, for me to see 

So clearly, and in the dark, more than he sees 

Who put me here as I saw long ago 

More than a man could do, till it "was done? 

Yes, it is done, and cannot be undone. 

I know, because I know; and only those 

Whose creed and caution has been never to know 

Will see in that no reason . . . Yes, I know, 

My friend, but I do not know where you are. 

If you are here, help me to rise and stand 

Once more. I cannot sleep. I cannot see. 

Nothing to eat or drink nothing to see 

But night. Good night, my friend if you are here. 



Nothing to see but night and a long night, 

My friend. I hear you now. I hear you moving, 

And breathing. I can feel you in the dark, 

Although I cannot see you. ... Is this night? 

Or is it morning! No, it is not night 

For now I see. You were a dream, my friend! 

Glory to God, who made a dream of you, 

And of a place that I believed a prison. 

There were no prisons no Napoleons. 

I must have been asleep for a long time. 

Now I remember. I was on a ship 

A ship they said was carrying me to France. 

Why should I go to France? I must have slept, 

And sailed away asleep, and sailed on sleeping. 

I am not quite awake; yet I can see 

White waves, and I can feel a warm wind coming 

And I can see the sun! . . . This is not France 

This is a ship; and France was never a ship. 



234 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



France was a place where they were starving me 

To death, because a black man had a brain. 

I feel the sun! Now we going faster 

Now I see landI see land and a mountain! 

I see white foam along a sunny shore 

And there's a town. Now there are people in it, 

Shouting and singing, waving wild arms at me, 

And crowding down together to the water! 

You know me and you knew that I was coming! 

you lost faces! My lost friends! My island! 
You knew that I was coming. . . . 

You are gone. 
Where are you gone? Is this the night again? 

1 cannot see you now. But you are there 
You are still there. And I know who is here. 



THE SLAVE'S DREAM 

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Beside the ungathered rice he lay, 

His sickle in his hand; 
His breast was bare, his matted hair 

Was buried in the sand. 
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep, 

He saw his Native Land. 

Wide through the landscape of his dreams 

The lordly Niger flowed; 
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain 

Once more a king he strode; 
And heard the tinkling caravans 

Descend the mountain road. 

He saw once more his dark-eyed queen 

Among her children stand; 
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,, 

They held him by the hand! 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 



A tear burst from the sleeper's lids 
And fell into the sand. 



And then at furious speed he rode 

Along the Niger's bank; 
His bridle-reins were golden chains, 

And, with a martial clank, 
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel 

Smiting his stallion's flank. 

Before him, like a blood-red flag, 

The bright flamingoes flew; 
From morn till night he followed their flight, 

O'er plains where the tamarind grew, 
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts, 

And the ocean rose to view. 

At night he heard the lion roar, 

And the hyena scream, 
And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds 

Beside some hidden stream; 
And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums, 

Through the triumph of his dream. 

The forests, with their myriad tongues, 

Shouted of liberty; 
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud, 

With a voice so wild and free, 
That he started in his sleep and smiled 

At their tempestuous glee. 

He did not feel the driver's whip, 

Nor the burning heat of day; 
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep, 

And his lifeless body lay 
A worn-out fetter, that the soul 

Had broken and thrown away! 



236 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE FAREWELL 

by John Greenleof Whittier 



Of a Virginia Slave Mother to Her Daughters, 
Sold into Southern Bondage 

Gone, gone sold and gone, 

To the rice-swamp dank and lone. 

Where the slave-whip ceaseless swings, 

Where the noisome insect stings, 

Where the fever demon strews 

Poison with the falling dews, 

Where the sickly sunbeams glare 

Through the hot and misty air, 
Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters, 
Woe is me, my stolen daughter si 

Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone. 
There no mother's eye is near them, 
There no mother's ear can hear them; 
Never, when the torturing lash 
Seams their back with many a gash, 
Shall a mother's kindness bless them, 
Or a mother's arms caress them. 
Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters- 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters! 

Gone, gone sold and gone, 

To the rice-swamp dank and lone. 

Oh, when weary, sad, and slow, 

From the fields at night they go, 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 237 



Faint with toil, and racked with pain, 
To their cheerless homes again 
There no brother's voice shall greet them 
There no father's welcome meet them. 
Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters- 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters! 

Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From the tree whose shadow lay 
On their childhood's place of play 
From the cool spring where they drank 
Rock, and hill, and rivulet bank 
From the solemn house of prayer, 
And the holy counsels there- 
Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters, 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters! 

Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone- 
Toiling through the weary day, 
And at night the spoiler's prey. 
Oh, that they had earlier died, 
Sleeping calmly, side by side, 
Where the tyrant's power is o'er 
And the fetter galls no morel 
Gone, gone sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters, 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters! 

Gone, gone sold and gone, 

To the rice-swamp dank and lone. 

By the holy love He beareth 

By the bruised reed He spareth 



233 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Oh, may He, to whom alone 
All their cruel wrongs are known, 
Still their hope and refuge prove, 
With a more than mother's love. 
Gone, gonesold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters, 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters! 



STANZAS ON FREEDOM 
by James Russell Lowell 



Men! whose boast it is that ye 
Come of fathers brave and free, 
If there breathe on earth a slave, 
Are ye truly free and brave? 
If ye do not feel the chain, 
When it works a brother's pain, 
Are ye not base slaves, indeed, 
Slaves unworthy to be freed? 

Women! who shall one day bear 
Sons to breathe New England air, 
If ye hear without a blush 
Deeds to make the roused blood rush 
Like red lava through your veins, 
For your sisters now in chains, 
Answer! are ye fit to be 
Mothers of the brave and free? 

Is true Freedom but to break 
Fetters for our own dear sake, 
And with leathern hearts forget 
That we owe mankind a debt? 
No! true Freedom is to share 
All the chains our brothers wear, 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 239 

And with heart and hands to be 
Earnest to make others free! 

They are slaves who fear to speak 
For the fallen and the weak; 
They are slaves who will not choose 
Hatred, scoffing and abuse, 
Rather than in silence shrink 
From the truth they needs must think; 
They are slaves who dare not be 
In the right with two or three. 



HOW OLD BROWN TOOK HARPERS FERRY 6 
by Edmund Clarence Stedman 

John Brown in Kansas settled, like a steadfast Yankee farmer, 
Brave and godly, with four sons, all stalwart men of might. 
There he spoke aloud for freedom, and the Border-strife grew warmer, 
Till the Rangers fired his dwelling, in his absence, in the night; 

And Old Brown, 

Osawatomie Brown, 
Came homeward in the morningto find his house burned down. 

Then he grasped his trusty rifle and boldly fought for freedom; 

Smote from border unto border the fierce, invading band; 
And he and his brave boys vowed so might Heaven help and speed 

'em!- 

They would save those grand old prairies from the curse that blights 
the land; 

And Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Said, "Boys, the Lord will aid us!" and he shoved his ramrod down. 

And the Lord did aid these men, and they labored day and even, 
Saving Kansas from its peril; and their very lives seemed charmed, 
"Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. 



240 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Till the ruffians killed one son, in the blessed light of Heaven, 
In cold blood the fellows slew him, as he journeyed all unarmed; 

Then Old Brown, 

Osawatomie Brown, 
Shed not a tear, but shut his teeth, and frowned a terrible frown! 

Then they seized another brave boy, not amid the heat of battle, 
But in peace, behind his ploughshare, and they loaded him with 

chains, 

And with pikes, before their horses, even as they goad their cattle, 
Drove him cruelly, for their sport, and at last blew out his brains; 

Then Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Raised his right hand up to Heaven, calling Heaven's vengeance down. 

And he swore a fearful oath, by the name of the Almighty, 

He would hunt this ravening evil that had scathed and torn him so; 
He would seize it by the vitals; he would crush it day and night; he 
Would so pursue its footsteps, so return it blow for blow, 

That Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Should be a name to swear by, in backwoods or in town! 

Then his beard became more grizzled, and his wild blue eye grew 

wilder, 

And more sharply curved his hawk's-nose, snuffing battle from afar; 
And he and the two boys left, though the Kansas strife waxed milder, 
Grew more sullen, till was over the bloody Border War, 
And Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Had gone crazy, as they reckoned by his fearful glare and frown. 

So he left the plains of Kansas and their bitter woes behind him, 

Slipt off into Virginia, where the statesmen all are born, 
Hired a farm by Harpers Ferry, and no one knew where to find him, 
Or whether he'd turned parson, or was jacketed and shorn; 

For Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Mad as he was, knew texts enough to wear a parson's gown. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 241 

He bought no ploughs and harrows, spades and shovels, and such trifles; 

But quietly to his rancho there came, by every train, 
Boxes full of pikes and pistols, and his well-beloved Sharp's rifles; 
And eighteen other madmen joined their leader there again. 

Says Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
"Boys, we've got an army large enough to march and take the town! 

'Take the town, and seize the muskets, free the Negroes and then arm 

them; 

Carry the County and the State, ay, and all the potent South. 
On their own heads be the slaughter, if their victims rise to harm them 
These Virginians! who believed not, nor would heed the warning 
mouth." 

Says Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
"The world shall see a Republic, or my name is not John Brown/* 

'Twas the sixteenth of October, on the evening of a Sunday: 

"This good work," declared the captain, "shall be on a holy night!" 
It was on a Sunday evening, and before the noon of Monday, 
With two sons, and Captain Stephens, fifteen privatesblack and 
white, 

Captain Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Marched across the bridged Potomac, and knocked the sentry down; 

Took the guarded armory-building, and the muskets and the cannon; 

Captured all the county majors and the colonels, one by one; 
Scared to death each gallant scion of Virginia they ran on, 
And before the noon of Monday, I say, the deed was done. 

Mad Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
With his eighteen other crazy men, went in and took the town. 

Very little noise and bluster, little smell of powder made he; 
It was all done in the midnight, like the Emperor's coup d'6tat. 



242 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

''Cut the wires! Stop the rail-cars! Hold the streets and bridges!" said he, 
Then declared the new Republic, with himself for guiding star, 

This Old Brown, 

Osawatomie Brown; 
And the bold two thousand citizens ran off and left the town. 

Then was riding and railroading and expressing here and thither; 

And the Martinsburg Sharpshooters and the Charlestown Volunteers, 
And the Shepherdstown and Winchester Militia hastened whither 
Old Brown was said to muster his ten thousand grenadiers. 
General Brown! 
Osawatomie Brown! ! 
Behind whose rampant banner all the North was pouring down. 

But at last, 'tis said, some prisoners escaped from Old Brown's durance, 

And the effervescent valor of the Chivalry broke out, 
When they learned that nineteen madmen had the marvellous assur- 
ance- 
Only nineteen thus to seize the place and drive them straight about; 
And Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Found an army come to take him, encamped around the town. 

But to storm, with all the forces I have mentioned, was too risky; 
So they hurried off to Richmond for the Government Marines, 
Tore them from their weeping matrons, fired their souls with Bourbon 

whiskey, 

Till they battered down Brown's castle with their ladders and ma- 
chines; 

And Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Received three bayonet stabs, and a cut on his brave old crown. 

Tallyho! the old Virginia gentry gather to the baying! 

In they rushed and killed the game, shooting lustily away; 
And when'er they slew a rebel, those who came too late for slaying, 
Not to lose a share of glory, fired their bullets in his clay; 
And Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
Saw his sons fall dead beside him and between them laid him down. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 243 

How the conquerors wore their laurels; how they hastened on the trial; 
How Old Brown was placed, half dying, on the Charlestown court- 
house floor; 

How he spoke his grand oration, in the scorn of all denial; 
What the brave old madman told them, these are known the coun- 
try o'er. 

"Hang Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown," 
Said the judge, "and all such rebels!" with his most judicial frown. 

But, Virginians, don't do it! for I tell you that the flagon, 

Filled with blood of Old Brown's offspring, was first poured by 

Southern hands; 
And each drop from Old Brown's life-veins, like the red gore of the 

dragon, 

May spring up a vengeful Fury, hissing through your slave-worn 
lands! 

And Old Brown, 
Osawatomie Brown, 
May trouble you more than ever, when you've nailed his coffin downl 



JOHN BROWN'S PRAYER 7 

From John Brown's Body 
by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Omnipotent and steadfast God, 
Who, in Thy mercy, hath 
Upheaved in me Jehovah's rod 
And his chastising wrath, 

For fifty-nine unsparing years 
Thy Grace hath worked apart 
To mould a man of iron tears 
With a bullet for a heart. 

7 From "John Brown's Body," in Selected Works of Stephen Vincent 'Benet, copy- 
right, 1927, 1928, by Stephen Vincent Ben&. Published by Rinehart & Company, 
Inc. 



244 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Yet, since this body may be weak 
With all it has to bear, 
Once more, before Thy thunders speak, 
Almighty, hear my prayer. 

I saw Thee when Thou did display 
The black man and his lord 
To bid me free the one, and slay 
The other with the sword. 

I heard Thee when Thou bade me spurn 
Destruction from my hand 
And, though all Kansas bleed and burn, 
It was at Thy command. 

I hear the rolling of the wheels, 
The chariots of war! 
I hear the breaking of the seals 
And the opening of the doorl 

The glorious beasts with many eyes 
Exult before the Crowned. 
The buried saints arise, arise 
Like incense from the ground! 

Before them march the martyr-longs, 

In bloody sunsets drest, 

O, Kansas, bleeding Kansas, 

l[ou will not let me rest! 

I hear your sighing corn again, 
I smell your prairie-sky , 
And I remember -five dead men 
By Pottawattomie. 

Lord God it was a work of Thine, 
And how might I refrain? 
But Kansas, bleeding Kansas, 
I hear her in her pain. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 245 



Her corn is rustling in the ground, 
An arrow in my flesh. 
And all night long I staunch a wound 
That ever bleeds afresh. 

Get up, get up, my hardy sons. 
From this time forth we are 
No longer men, but pikes and guns 
In God's advancing war. 

And if we live, we free the slave, 
And if we die, we die. 
But God has digged His saints a grave 
Beyond the western sky. 

Oh, fairer than the bugle-call 
Its walls of jasper shine! 
And Joshua's sword is on the wall 
With space beside for mine. 

And should the Philistine defend 

His strength against our blows, 

The God who doth not spare His friend, 

Will not forget His foes. 



HARPERS FERRY 8 
by Selden Rodman 

Everything was wrong; the local slaves wore smiles, 

At least on Sundays; freedom could be bought; 

There was no cotton within fifty miles. 

Brown and his eighteen roughnecks never thought 

To stand, but the attack went un-rehearsed 

And with the Shenandoah crossed, retreat 

Was out of question; reckless, he dispersed 

His men; no hour of withdrawal was set. 

8 From The Amazing Year, by Selden Rodman. Charles Scribner's Sons, pub- 
lishers. 



246 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The first man to be shot was free, and black. 
Liquor at Wager House began to flow. 
Brown, while his time ran out, rode four miles back 
To steal George Washington's pistols for a Negro. 
Trapped in the engine-house, he burnt the brief 
Stuart prepared, and when they beat him flat 
Told gentlemanly Lee: "You . , . are the thief, 
We came to free the slaves and only that . . ." 

And like a thief America slept on, 

Dreaming of where two angry rivers met, 

And the trains howled in the mountain, and a town 

Crouched like a black child, shivering and wet, 

Until the voice that had aroused to murder 

Before the circle of the noose had set 

Screamed at the sleeping Giant, and so stirred her 

She took a million lives to pay the debt. 



"FORMERLY A SLAVE 1 ' 
by Herman Melville 

An idealized portrait by E. Vedder, 

in the spring exhibition 

of the National Academy > 1865 

The sufferance of her race is shown, 

And retrospect of life, 
Which now too late deliverance dawns upon; 

Yet is she not at strife. 

Her children's children they shall know 

The good withheld from her; 
And so her reverie takes prophetic cheer 

In spirit she sees the stir. 

Far down the depth of thousand years, 

And marks the revel shine; 
Her dusky face is lit with sober light, 

Sibylline, yet benign. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 247 



ECHOES OF CHILDHOOD' 

A Folk-Medley 

From Echoes of Childhood 
by Alice Corbin 

UNCLE JIM 



Old Uncle Jim was as blind as a mole, 
But he could fiddle Virginia Reels, 
Till you felt the sap run out of your heels, 
Till you knew the devil had got your soul- 

Down the middle and swing yd partners, 
Up agin and salute her low, 
Shake yd foot an keep a-goin 
Down the middle an do-se-dol 

Mind yd manners an doan git keerless, 
Swing yd lady and bow full low, 
S'lute yd partner an 9 turn yd neighbor, 
Gran -right-an -left, and arourf you go! 



DELPHY 

Delphy's breast was wide and deep, 
A shelf to lay a child asleep, 

String low, sweet chariot, swing low; 
Rocking like a lifted boat 
On lazy tropic seas afloat, 

Swing low, sweet chariot, swing low. 

Delphy, when my mother died, 
Taught me wisdom, curbed my pride, 
String low, sweet chariot, swing low; 
'By permission of author. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And when she laid her body down, 
It shone, a jewel, in His crown, 

Swing low., sweet chariot, swing low. 

( Underneath the southern moon 
I was cradled to the tune 
Of the banjo and the fiddle 
And the plaintive Negro croon.) 

MANDTS RELIGION 

Tse got religion an' I doan care 

Who knows that God an' I are square, 

I wuz carryin* home my mistis* wash 

When God came an' spoke to me out'n de hush. 

An* I th'ew de wash up inter de air, 
An* I climbed a tree to de golden stair; 
Ef it hadn't a been fur Mistah Wright 
I'd had ter stayed dere all de night! 

( Underneath the southern moon 
I was cradled to the tune 
Of the banjo and the fiddle 
And the plaintive Negro croon. ) 



NEGRO SPIRITUAL 
by Perient Trott 



Sable is my throat 
golden the cable 
golden the column of its sound- 
firm, my transplanted feet 
upon this soil 
deeD, my roots 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 24? 

I am the sounding board 
the maker of songs- 
mine, the folk song of America! 
Sensitive, my transplanted feet 
to the rhythm of the earth: 
deep, my roots 

in the somnambulant greatness 
of the earth 
in the nostalgia 
of my race 
in the drama 
of my people 
uprooted 
dispossessed 
transplanted 
the song of America 
wells full-bodied 
in my throat . . . 

I am the maker of songs 
the voice of colony 
the folk song of empire 

Oh, sable is my throat. . . . 
golden, the rich cable. . . . 
rich, the column of my song! 
Sable, sable! 
Golden, golden! 

Oh, sable is my throat! 



250 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE CONGO 10 

A Study of the Negro Race 
by Yachel Lindsay 

I-THEIR BASIC SAVAGERY 

Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room, 

Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable, 

A deep roll- Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table, 
ing bass Pounded on the table, 

Beat an empty barrel with the handle of a broom, 

Hard as they were able, 

Boom, boom, BOOM, 

With a silk umbrella and the handle of a broom, 

Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM. 

THEN I had religion, THEN I had a vision. 

I could not turn from their revel in derision. 
More deliber- THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING 
ate. Solemnly THROUGH THE BLACK, 

chanted CUTTING THROUGH THE JUNGLE WITH A 

GOLDEN TRACK. 

Then along that river bank 

A thousand miles 

Tattooed cannibals danced in files; 

Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust song 

And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan gong. 

A rapidly pil- And "BLOOD!" screamed the whistles and the fifes 
ing climax of of the warriors, 

speed and "BLOOD!" screamed the skull-faced, lean witch-doc- 
racket tors; 

"Whirl ye the deadly voo-doo rattle, 

Harry the uplands, 

Steal all the cattle, 

Rattle-rattle, rattle-rattle, 

Bing! 

Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM!" 

10 From The Congo 6- Other Poems, by Vachel Lindsay; copyright, 1914, by The 
Macmillan Company. Reprinted with their permission. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 25! 

With a philo- A roaring, epic, rag-time tune 
sophic pause From the mouth of the Congo 

To the Mountains of the Moon. 

Death is an Elephant, 
Shrilly and Torch-eyed and horrible, 
with a heavily Foam-flanked and terrible. 
accented BOOM, steal the pygmies, 

meter BOOM, kill the Arabs, 

BOOM, kill the white men, 

HOO, HOO, HOO. 

Like the wind Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost 
in the Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host. 

chimney Hear how the demons chuckle and yell 

Cutting his hands off down in Hell. 

Listen to the creepy proclamation, 

All the O Blown through the lairs of the forest-nation, 

sounds very Blown past the white-ants' hill of clay, 
golden. Blown past the marsh where the butterflies play: 

Heavy ae- "Be careful what you do, 

cents very Or Mumbo-Jumbo, god of the Congo, 
heavy. Light And all of the other 
accents very Gods of the Congo, 
light. Last Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you, 
line whis- Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you, 

per ed Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you." 

II-THEIR IRREPRESSIBLE HIGH SPIRITS 

Rather shrill Wild crap-shooters with a whoop and a call 

and high Danced title juba in their gambling-hall, 

And laughed fit to kill, and shook the town, 
And guyed the policemen and laughed them down 
With a boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM. 
THEN I SAW THE CONGO CREEPING 
THROUGH THE BLACK, 

Read exactly CUTTING THROUGH THE JUNGLE WITH A 

as in first sec- GOLDEN TRA'CK. 

tion. Lay em- A Negro fairyland swung into view, 

phasis on the A minstrel river 

delicate ideas. Where dreams come true. 



252 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Keep as light- The ebony palace soared on high 
footed as pos- Through the blossoming trees to the evening sky. 
sible The inlaid porches and casements shone 

With gold and ivory and elephant-bone. 
And the black crowd laughed till their sides were sore 
At the baboon butler in the agate door, 
And the well-known tunes of the parrot band 
That trilled on the bushes of that magic land. 

A troop of skull-faced witch-men came 
With pom- Through the agate doorway in suits of flame 
posity Yea, long-tailed coats with a gold-leaf crust 

And hats that were covered with diamond-dust. 

And the crowd in the court gave a whoop and a call 
With a great And danced the juba from wall to wall. 
deliberation But the witch-men suddenly stilled the throng 
and ghostli- With a stern cold glare, and a stern old song: 
ness "Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you." . . . 

With over- Just then from the doorway, as fat as shotes 

whelming as- Came the cake-walk princes in their long red coats, 

surance, good Canes with a brilliant lacquer shine, 

cheer, and And tall silk hats that were red as wine. 

pomp And they pranced with their butterfly partners there, 

Coal-black maidens with pearls in their hair, 
With growing Knee-skirts trimmed with the jassamine sweet, 
speed and And bells on their ankles and little black feet. 
sharply And the couples railed at the chant and the frown 

marked Of the witch-men lean, and laughed them down. 

dance- (Oh, rare was the revel, and well worth while 

rhythm That made those glowering witch-men smile. ) 

The cake-walk royalty then began 
To walk for a cake that was tall as a man 
To the tune of "Boomlay, boomlay, BOOM," 
With a touch While the witch-men laughed, with a sinister air, 
of Negro dia- And sang with the scalawags prancing there: 
lect, and as 'Walk with care, walk with care, 
rapidly as Or Mumbo-Jumbo, god of the Congo, 
possible to- And all of the other 
ward the end Gods of the Congo, 



Slow philo- 
sophic calm 



Heavy bass. 
With a literal 
imitation of 
camp-meet- 
ing racket 
and trance 



Exactly as in 
the -first sec- 
tion. Begin 
with terror 
and power, 
end with joy. 
Sung to the 
tune of "Hark, 
ten thousand 
harps and 
voices' 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 253 

Mumbo- Jumbo will hoo-doo you. 
Beware, beware, walk with care, 
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom, 
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom, 
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom, 
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, 
BOOM" 

Oh, rare was the revel, and well worth while 
That made those glowering witch-men smile. 

III-THE HOPE OF THEIR RELIGION 

A good old Negro in the slums of the town 

Preached at a sister for her velvet gown. 

Howled at a brother for his low-down ways, 

His prowling, guzzling, sneak-thief days. 

Beat on the Bible till he wore it out 

Starting the jubilee revival shout. 

And some had visions, as they stood on chairs, 

And sang of Jacob, and the golden stairs, 

And they all repented, a thousand strong, 

From their stupor and savagery and sin and wrong, 

And slammed with their hymn-books till they shook 

the room 

With "Glory, glory, glory," 
And "Boom, boom, Boom." 
THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING 

THROUGH THE BLACK, 
CUTTING THROUGH THE JUNGLE WITH A 

GOLDEN TRACK. 

And the gray sky opened like a new-rent veil 
And showed the apostles with their coats of mail. 
In bright white steel they were seated round, 
And their fire-eyes watched where the Congo wound. 
And the twelve Apostles, from their thrones on high, 
Thrilled all the forest with their heavenly cry: 
"Mumbo-Jumbo will die in the jungle; 
Never again will he hoo-doo you, 
Never again will he hoo-doo you." 



254 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Then along that river, a thousand miles, 
With growing The vine-snared trees fell down in files. 
deliberation Pioneer angels cleared the way 
and joy For a Congo paradise, for babes at play, 

For sacred capitals, for temples clean. 

Gone were the skull-faced witch-men lean; 
In a rather There, where the wild ghost-gods had wailed, 
high key as A million boats of the angels sailed 
delicately as With oars of silver, and prows of blue, 
possible And silken pennants that the sun shone through. 

Twas a land transfigured, 'twas a new creation. 
To the tune Oh, a singing wind swept the Negro nation, 
of "Hark> ten And on through the backwoods clearing flew: 
thousand "Mumbo- Jumbo is dead in the jungle. 

harps and Never again will he hoo-doo you. 
voices 9 " Never again will he hoo-doo you." 

Redeemed were the forests, the beasts and the men a 

And only the vulture dared again 
Dying doton By the far lone mountains of the moon 
into a pene- To cry, in the silence, the Congo tune: 
trating, ter- "Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you, 
rifted whisper Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you. 

Mumbo . . . Jumbo . . . will . . . hoo-doo . . . you. 3 



BLACK TAMBOURINE 11 
by Hart Crane 

The interests of a black man in a cellar 

Mark tardy judgment on the world's closed door. 

Gnats toss in the shadow of a bottle, 

And a roach spans a crevice in the floor. 

^From The Collected Poems of Hart Crane, Reprinted by permission of Liveright 
Publishing Corporation. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 255 

Aesop, driven to pondering, found 
Heaven with the tortoise and the hare; 
Fox brush and sow ear top his grave 
And mingling incantations on the air. 

The black man, forlorn in the cellar. 
Wanders in some mid-kingdom, dark, that lies, 
Between his tambourine, stuck on the wall, 
And, in Africa, a carcass quick with flies. 



ELEGY ON A NORDIC WHITE PROTESTANT 13 
by John Gould Fletcher 

Lazy petals of magnolia-bloom float down the sluggish river, 

Borne by the wind from deep bayous, where loose lithe boughs are 
trailing 

Grey-green beards of Spanish moss; white flowers in the sluggish cur- 
rent; 

But the black tide beneath them is rising. 

Lofty and still, the trees 

Stand like a columned ballroom for the dance 

Of fireflies; green-white they spurt and flicker. 

Down in the marsh the bullfrogs with bassoons 

Hold a deep raucous bass above the chorus 

Of katydid and cricket in the stillness: 

Remote and lone, the trees 

Look down long clearings, grey-green in dense moonlight; 

The hound-dogs bay, and glimmering lights peep out 

From low dark cabin-doors. 

But the white house keeps cold and high, aloof, 

Its classic columns not yet given to decay: 

It brings a day 

To memory, when under its broad roof 

Over unrotted and new-polished floors, 

There flowed no grace 

'"From XXIV Elegies, copyright, 1935, by John Gould Fletcher. Published by 
Writers' Editions, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 



256 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Like this, nor was there ever seen a face 
So white, unearthly fan- 
As yours: 
But the moon in the woods knows better, for it has looked on despair. 

Pale petals of magnolia-bloom thrust out white cups for coolness, 

Magnolia-buds thrust up, hold themselves taut to the thunder 

That beats across the ragged hills to southward 

Its dull deep-muttering drum; 

Between snake-fences staggering off over fields, 

The strong green plumes of warrior-corn, the white dense clumps of 

cotton, 

And miles away the strong and eddying current of the river 
Fretting the green levees, night after night in the moonlight, 
Where the strong black tide is rising, ever rising, 
As it would rise forever. 

Voices speak in the trees; 

Voices shake in the leaves, as the leaves shake before thunder; 

Ku-klux, the faint snick-snick of rifles, 

Galloping horses, voices, crackle of twigs on the trail. 

White figures flit past swiftly 

Dissolving into moonbeams, that dapple the earth with shadows; 

For tonight the eternal forest 

Is filled with the hunt for blood. 

(When a dry rain of mandolins, pulsing and fluttering, beats on the 

stiffened tuberoses 
That hold up their chaste waxlike chalices, chill to the breeze of the 

night, 
That runs out of red-gullied hills, and creaks through the pomegranate 

bushes 

That flare out in startling scarlet all down the long avenue, 
Under the sombre magnolias with the trail of the Milky Way going 

southwestward, 

You whom I loved so of oldyou whom I hold in my heart still 
I shall often think that I come back only to you). 

Slowly, the moon, bronzed by the heat of the day, 
Passes, a lithe brown fluteplayer; 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 257 

Slowly on streets where the dust hovers and settles. 

From the mule-drays that rattled along 

Bearing their bales in the morning; 

Swinging the brown-bagged cotton, 

Out of the fields to the town; 

Slowly the red earth cracks, and the white fronts of the houses 

Stare into hopeless silence; 

And slowly rises the river, 

Seething, chocolate-brown; 

Stealthily drifts on its current, 

Sweeping, with many a shiver, 

Over the cottonwoods, roosting on sandbanks, spectrally grey and 

surprising: 

Writhing their branches to the sky; 
Slowly the black tide is rising. 

Batter on your banjoes, roar you golden saxophones, 
Beat your sullen bass-drums, jingle loud your tambourines, 
Shout loud deep trombone voices, swell in amazing chorus; 
White mobs of lynchers, vain is your work; 

Vain is the web of your terror, you pass like mist in the morning: 
Shifting and ebbing forever, leaving the land dark and naked; 
Under the hail of your bullets, the river runs on still triumphant, 
And the black tide in its banks is rising, 
Rising, forever, rising! 



THE BIRD AND THE TREE 18 
by Ridgely Torrence 

Blackbird, blackbird in the cage, 
There's something wrong tonight. 
Far off the sheriff's footfall dies, 
The minutes crawl like last year's flies 
Between the bars, and like an age 
The hours are long tonight. 

"From Poems, by Ridgely Torrence, copyright, 1941, by The Macmillan Com- 
pany. Used with their permission. 



258 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



The sky is like a heavy lid 
Out here beyond the door tonight. 
What's that? A mutter down the street. 
What's that? A sound of yells and feet. 
For what you didn't do or did 
Youll pay the score tonight. 

No use to reek with reddened sweat, 

No use to whimper and to sweat. 

They've got the rope; they've got the guns. 

They've got the courage and the guns; 

And that's the reason why tonight; 

No use to ask them any more. 

They'll fire the answer through the door 

You're out to die tonight. 

There where the lonely cross-road lies, 
There is no place to make replies; 
But silence, inch by inch, is there, 
And the right limb for a lynch is there; 
And a lean daw waits for both your eyes, 
Blackbird. 

Perhaps you'll meet again some place. 
Look for the mask upon the face: 
That's the way you'll know them there 
A white mask to hide the face: 
And you can halt and show them there 
The things that they are deaf to now, 
And they can tell you what they meant 
To wash the blood with blood. But how 
If you are innocent? 

Blackbird singer, blackbird mute, 

They choked the seed you might have found. 

Out of a thorny field you go 

For you it may be better so 

And leave the sowers of the ground 

To eat the harvest of the fruit, 

Blackbird. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 259 



THE LYNCHING BEE 14 
by William Eilery Leonard 



Here at the crossroads is the night so black 
It swallows tree and thicket, barn and stack, 
Even though the sickle of the new moon hang, 
Keen as a knife, bent like a boomerang, 
A witch's bangle in the Zodiac. 

Black on the crossroads . , . but in skies off yonder 
There broods a fiery gloom, a hectic glow, 
Like the last twilight just before the thunder, 
Or omens of doomed soothsayers, long ago . . . 
To-day the veriest dog or mule would know 
It only means a lighted town thereunder. 



Honk, Honk! 

On to the fork! Honk! Honk! 
You hear? 

From hand-squeezed bulb and belching conch! 
Honk! Honk! 

Down in the hollow now, but near. 
How many there? 
Honk! Honk! 

Topping the hill off there 
Behind the foremost cone of glare- 
That, like the swift typhoon, 
Sweeps on along each length of rut 
And makes their ridges as clear cut 
As in Uganda at high noon 
Stand out the Mountains of the Moon. 

"From The Lynching Bee and Other Poems, by William Ellery Leonard, copy- 
right, 1920, by B. W. Huebsch, Inc., 1948, by Charlotte Charlton Leonard. 



260 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



III 



IV 



Honk, for the brasses and cat-gut! 
Honk, Honk, for cymbals and bassoon! 
New times, new music and new fun! 
Though Bottom's gone and Oberon, 
With Satyr, Dwarf, and pet Baboon, 
Midsummer nights have still their rites. 
Honk, Honk: "We've caught the coon!" 
("Honk" means they've caught the coon.) 



They stop they jerk they chug they back. 
And in a monstrous ring they park, 
With ghostly cones converging from the dark 
Upon a central tree all split and black, 
Whose limbs and leaves are caverned out of sight 
In the eternity of night. 
It's like a magic circle where 
Snake-dancers, striped, brown, and bare, 
With pouch in waving hand and horns on hair, 
In old times swayed and swung 
And called on Tunga-Tung, 
With nasal ang and gutteral unk 
Around a lightning-blasted trunk, 
Or hissed in chorus with a serpent-stare. 
Yet nothing like this there- 
It's only the sign-board of the town's, 
And crossroads cottonwood by Farmer Brown's. 



It's only twelve true men in pants and coats 
(The sort who pay their bills, and cast their votes, 
Or file to jury boxes on hot afternoons) . . . 
Each with a finger on a trigger, 
Dragging by ropes, around his gullet tied, 
With hobbled legs and arms well lashed to side, 



V 



VI 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 261 

The best of all buffoons 

A banjo-boy and jigger, 

A hovel-doorway bawler of coarse tunes. 

Like Caliban he shuffles, only bigger; 

Or ourang-outang, only larger-eyed 

A bandy-legged nigger, 

Quite jerky, but all silent down inside. 



They take the rope off at the tree perhaps 

Won't hang him after all? These humorous chaps! 

Just make him dance amid the glare 

For women-folk and boys and girls back there, 

Still in their seats? 

Make him show off his feats? 

Stand on his head-piece while he eats 

Hoe-cakes or possum sweets? 

Or turn him up, and have him wag his ears; 

Or wriggle and wrinkle scalp and brow, 

Like a fly-bitten back of Holstein cow, 

And throw from pate a bowl or plate, 

While underneath he grins and leers? 

He'll butt his thick skull 'gainst the trunk, I think, 

And then draw back, guffaw, and wink. 



Not so. They pay a chain out link by link. 

Hear it rattle, hear it clink! 

A good stout chain so much can do! 

As dancing bear and old-time showman knew, 

Or bloodhound leashed at kennel door in straw. 

And down along the Nile, 

With Pharaoh's Sphinx in view, 

The Coptic coolies, with a chain or two 

Around his belly, tail, and jaw, 



262 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Aboard the freighter hoist the crocodile 

For Circus or for Zoo 

A stout chain holds, 

Come fear or fire, whatever's in its folds. 



VII 



VIII 



They strip him, overalls and shirt, 
They set his back against the tree, 
They wind the links so tight about, 
In girdles two and three. . . . 
And yet it hardly seems to hurt, 
For not a word says he. 
Honk! Honk! 



He stands five fathoms deep in glare agrin. 

Honk, Honk! Honk, Honk! 

His skin-bark on the tree bark-skin, 

Trunk grafted on to trunk. 

Honk! Honk! . . . 

The graft should take, for they are close of kin,- 

Both sprung of one old soil of earth, 

Both fed on rain and air and dirt from birth, 

Both tough and stark and thin . . . 



One steps with jack-knife up. And he 
Will cut the bark of which dark tree? 
Nigger or cottonwood? With that 
He gelds him like a colt or cat! 
But the coon's caterwauls and wails 
(Honk, Honk! Honk, Honk!) 
Fall thin and blurred and flat- 
While every conch-horn at him rails: 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 263 



"No more he'll spawn in bush or bed, 
With cocaine crazed, with whiskey drunk, 
A charcoal woolly head, 
Or yellow half-breed bratP 
Honk, Honk! 



Another comes with brush and pot, 
And smears him over, as with ointment hot. 
Honk! Honk! 

Good fellow, at your trellised house in town, 
You boil the tar to indigo and brown, 
Shimmering in sunshine, bubbling to the brim- 
Why waste it at the crossroads here on him? 
Tar on your driveway, rolled in grit, 
Makes you a roadbed firm and fit; 
Tar on your upturned row-boat sinks 
In all the nail-holes, joints, and chinks; 
Tar on your gadding daughter's white kid shoe 
Was black, and tickled you all through; 
But, brother, with the brush and pot, 
Tar does no good on hide of Hottentot 
Or have you feathers in a bag or two? 
If so, by now, he'd just as Kef as not. 
Honk! Honk! 



With rags, and straw, and sticks, and other toys, 
In run the women-folk and girls and boys. 
They'll prod his ribs? tickle his arm-pits? sop 
His sweating cheeks, as with a pantry mop? 
Such crossroads pranks are not just right 
For decent town-folk, it would seem. . . . 
( Or is this only a midsummer dream 
In innocent midnight?) . . . 



264 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



XII 



Besides they haven't the heart. They drop 
Their knickknacks at black ankles and bare feet, 
And cool him from the spouts of cans 
(Fetched from below-stairs, under washing pans 
Porcelain-lined and scoured so white. ) 
And then they all, excepting one, retreat, 
Back through the length of light. 



This one is honored over every other, 
She is the dead child's Mother. 

And the two glare and glare 

At one another 

In two eternities of hate and pain, 

Yet with such monstrous union in despair, 

Such hideous sameness in their haggard shapes, 

The one, the other, 

That you would say the twain 

Seemed like a savage sister and twin-brother 

Dying of hunger out among the apes. 



XIII 



Her hand is clutching her unsuckled breast 

You know the rest: 

The bloody curls, the dainty skirt a shred, 

The sprawling hand-prints on the legs and head, 

Her body's little body in a shed. . . . 

Then down she kneels; 

You see her hunched back and her upturned heels. 

But not the scratch and scratch, 

Not the small flame that tips the second match. . . 

And not her hands, her face, her hank of hair, 

As when a Java woman kneels in prayer, 

Under a temple-hut of thatch, 

Before some devil-idol standing lone, 

Not far from jungles and the tiger's lair, 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 265 

Carved from the teak-wood to a jet-black face, 

With Pagan wrinkles, curving pair by pair, 

With set grimace, 

And two great eyeballs, staring white in stone. . . . 

Whilst smoke curls roofward from its hidden base . . . 

The Mother rises . . . will depart . . . 

Her duty done . . . and her desire. . . . 

And as she turns, you see a strange 

And quiet rapture of most uncouth change. 

For from her burning marrow, her crazed heart, 

She has transferred title fire 

Of horror and despair 

To the dumb savage there. . . . 

She has transferred, she thinks, the fire to him. 

Honk, Honk! let lights be dim! 

(And now the lights are dim.) . . . 



XIV 



And for a moment is the night so black 
It swallows tree and coon and all the pack, 
And lets the sickle of the new moon hang, 
Keen as a knife, bent like a boomerang, 
A witch's bangle in the Zodiac. 



Gone is the light that played upon the tree, 

But at the cottonwood's own base 

Another light now takes its place 

And there is still so much for us to see. 

Honk! Honk! 

There have been many bonfires on the earth, 

Born out of many moods and needs of men: 

As when the maskers, in their twilight mirth 

On Wessex heaths, would burn Guy Fawkes again; 

As when the bustling ctmntry-side in dread 

Against the Armada's coming set the beacons, 



266 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

In the heroic English days, on Beachy Head, 

When the midsummer sea-winds blew; 

As when the village dames and Yankee deacons 

Out on the common had a barbecue; 

As when the boys in South and North 

Still make the boxes blaze and crackle on the Fourth. 

The ghouls and witches too 

In olden times and regions far away 

Danced at their wonted rendezvous 

Upon the Brocken on the first of May, 

Screaming round the bonfire's light 

All through Walpurgis Night 

Honk! Honk! 

There is much fascination in a flame, 
Not least, whenever it has sprung 
In intertwining tongue and tongue, 
And left the one small spot from whence it came 
Faster, faster, higher, higher, 
Shapes of wing, and wave, and lyre, 
Shapes of demon-heads and peaked caps 
And flying smocks, and shreds and scraps 
Of all fantastic things without a name. 
Tongue after tongue in middle air- 
Snatched from existence, how and where? 
There is much fascination in a flame- 
Not least, when it is yellow, blue, and red, 
With blackness for a background and a frame, 
Still fuel-fed 

With straw and wood and tar and kerosene, 
And some organic matter still alive. 
Its witcheries of color, how they strive! 
Even though some smudge and smoke may get between. 



XVI 



Yet two vast bloodshot eyeballs by their might 
Out-top the flame, though from the flame their light 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 267 

Two eyeballs wrought (like eyeballs of the steei's 
Or dog's, or cat's, or woodchuck's, or a deer's) 
By one blind Nature in a mammal's womb, 
By one Herself with neither eyes nor ears, 
Nor birth, nor breath, nor doom. 

The two vast eyeballs grow and grow, 

Till, to the masters of the revels, 

They seem the eyeballs of the devil's 

Ascending from hell-fire down below. 

The masters will not have it so : 

A pole, all glowing charcoal at the tip, 

Zip, Zip! Zip, Zip! 

Honk, Honk! Honk, Honk! 

And the blind savage at the flaming tree 

No more will glare so monstrously. 



XVII 



But on the crossroads our midsummer dream 

Converts each flame into a scream, a scream 

A shriek, a shriek! 

The horns honk at them as a hose at fire; 

But still with every honk they come, 

Shriek after shriek, 

But fiercer, faster, higher! 

(And all the while before, he was as dumb 

As Roman martyr, schooled to turn the cheek.) 

Honk, honk, away to left and right! 

Between the honking and the shrieking black 

The odds ( awhile ) are ten to one to-night 

In favor of the blazing maniac! 

All ancient Africa is in his yells: 

The wounded zebra's neighing, the gazelle's 

Fierce whinny at the salt-lick, and the goat's; 

The roars of lions, with distended throats, 

Over the moonlit rocks for hollow hunger; 

The bellowing elephants, with jaws agape, 



268 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And lifted trunks that thrash across their backs 

Like writhing pythons or the great sea-conger, 

Their monstrous hindlegs bogged beyond escape 

In fire-swept jungles off their beaten tracks. 

All Africa is in the Negro's shrieks: 

The forests with their thousand parrot-beaks, 

From Nile and Congo to the Cape; 

But the Gorilla, the man-ape, 

With his broad, hairy, upright chest, 

Seems to out-scream the rest. 

All Africa is in his agony: 

The human ladings at the western coast, 

The slave-ship, and the storm at sea, 

The naked bodies (never very old) 

Dragged, sick and crippled, from the fetid hold 

And over the pitching gunwales tossed, 

Both male and female, overboard, 

While sharks, careening on their backs, 

In the green swells with scudding foam astreak, 

Ate up the blacks, 

And crew and captain prayed the Lord, 

Or crammed fresh oakum in the leak. 

All Africa is on his lips: 

The million sweats, the million bloody whips, 

The million ankles festering in a cord 

The unborn baby still between the hips, 

The bent gray head along the rice-swamp humming, 

"O Massa Gawd, Tse coining." 



XVIII 



His voice has come from other times and places. 

And hence away it carries far and far. . . . 

For in mid-darkness, level with a limb, 

Above the flames and smoking tar, 

Ride feather-crested heads that bob at him, 

With peering faces, 

There and there and there! 



XIX 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 269 

Faces, Faces, 

Sudden and weird as those that loom and peep 
Upon us nightly just before we sleep. 
No hands, nor arms, nor tomahawks you see, 
No thighs in buck-skins dyed and slashed, 
No moccasin, no foot, no knee, 
Not even a copper torso brave and bare 
From many a war-path scarred and gashed- 
But only faces, faces, faces, 
Riding in the air- 
Faces, faces, faces, faces, 
Feather-crested with long braided hair, 
Peering with an old desire 
From the gloom upon the fire, 
Summoned back from Otherwhere. . . . 
Summoned back from What-has-been : 
"Is that a Jesuit father at the stake 
Burning for his Jesus' sake? 
He hung us crosses round our necks to save- 
But when the Mohawks to our village came 
They killed both squaw and brave; 
We Hurons put the Mumble- Jumble to the flame. 
The cross it was no good to make us win 
It was bad medicine!" 
And Seminole, Pawnee, and Sioux, 
Apache, Blackfoot, Chippewa, and Crow, 
Each gloats as if he saw anew 
His own best captive of the long ago. . . . 



The faces fade away. . . . 

The Negro's cries 

Have joined the uncouth sounds of Yesterday 

The incantations to the blood-red moon, 

The ululations in the eclipse at noon, 

The old palm-island lullabies 

That ring-nosed crones were used to croon, 

Squatting circle-wise. . . . 



270 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And the twelve Shadows to the fire fling 

Great logs with fungus, spines, and rotted pith, 

And great dead boughs with thin and sprawling arms 

( Fetched from about a long-abandoned spring, 

And toad-stool woodlots of surrounding farms) 

As if to cage in wickerwork therewith 

(Like the wild people of a South-sea myth) 

The Demon-in-fire from everything it harms. . . . 

The Negro's corpse will take strange shapes, 

As the flames gnaw it, flesh and bone; 

But neither men shall see, nor apes, 

For it shall burn from now alone. . . . 

Alone . . . and up and up ... and down and down. 
While honkers honk it back to town. 



At last the stench, or glow of embers, brings 

The wolves, or wolf -like things. . . . 

Such as on earthquake midnights prowl around 

Smoulder of fallen beams and littered ground, 

And tear from dead hands golden finger-rings. 

But though they crouch in slow two-legged stealth, 

Their hunt is not for wealth. 

They paw into the cinders, as with hooks. . . , 

Snatch something out, 

With gloating, starveling looks . . . 

A bit of rib ... or skull ... or cnip , . . 

Hot ash and finger knuckle . . , 

They wrap them up, 

And putter round about ... 

And chuckle . . . 

And foot it oft and down the road, 

Past the weasel, skunk, and toad, 

The barnyard rat, 

The hooting owl and the whirring bat. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 271 



XXI 



But over the spot of glowing embers, listen, 

The poplar's leaves are rustling like the rain 

That patters on my garden-shrubs by night. . . . 

The dew may glisten, 

The south-wind come this way again, 

And wander thither, 

But the charred cottonwood has caught the blight. . . . 

Its leaves shall wither. 

Here on the fork, except that spot of red 

(Still fierce as some primordial desire), 

Ah 1 lust is dead: 

The lust to breed, the lust to burn; 

The rut of flesh, the glut of fire. . . . 

Lift up the head, 

If still you can, and turn 

To the great spaces of the skies. 

Black . . . black ... all black . . . 

The moon has set, perhaps elsewhere to hang, 

Keen as a knife, bent like a boomerang, 

A witch's bangle in the Zodiac . . . 

Black . . . black ... all black . . . 

Though dawn be pregnant with her enterprise, 

And stars perhaps will keep . . . 

Black . . . black . . . and over yonder, 

The glow is gone from all the town thereunder . . . 

And all the people sleep . . . and sleep . . . and sleep.* 

*(You cringe and shrink? 
It makes your own eyes in their sockets ache? 
O squeamish listener, but think 
It's all a midnight dream, and no one is awake; 
And in the morning, with the bobolink, 
We'll see together, you and I, 
The flowers, the fields, the sun, the sky, 
And the magnolia blossoms, white and pink. ) . 



272 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

NICE DAY FOR A LYNCHING 15 
by Kenneth Patchen 



The bloodhounds look like sad old judges 
In a strange court. They point their noses 
At the Negro jerking in the tight noose; 
His feet spread crow-like above these 
Honorable men who laugh as he chokes. 

I don't know this black man. 
I don't know these white men. 

But I know that one of my hands 
Is black, and one white. I know that 
One part of me is being strangled, 
While another part horribly laughs. 

Until it changes, 

I shall be forever killing; and be killed. 



NEGROES 18 

by Maxwell Bodenheim 

The loose eyes of an old man 

Shone aloof upon his boyish face; 

And a sluggish innocence 

Hugged his dull, brown skin. 

He sang a hymn borrowed from his elders 

And his voice resembled 

A quavering, feverish laugh 

Softened in a swaying cradle. 

His life had found a refuge in his voice, 

And the rest of him was under-nourished flesh 

Ignorant of life and death. 

1B By permission of New Directions. 
M By permission of author. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 273 

Centuries of oppression 

Became a mute, infinitely compassionate 

Background for this child's refrain. 

His mother shuffled out upon the porch. 

Slowly her dark brown face resolved 

Into the hushed and sulky look 

Of one who stands within a dim-walled trap. 

Lazily uncertain. 

She raised the boy into her arms. 

Then her voice swung in the air 

Like a quavering, feverish laugh 

Softened in a long-forgotten cradle. 



LYNCHED NEGRO 17 
by Maxwell Bodenheim 

Your downcast, harlequin, defenceless face 
Was turned to ashen flakes, and wavered up 
In lightly shapeless impotence upon 
The sprightly scandals of a morning wind, 
The hands of other men fell on your breast, 
Like scores of scorpions instinctively 
Expelled from jungle-spots within their hearts. 
Your blood, in fine quick problems, spattered out 
Upon the morning air that studied them 
And left complete, dry answers on your skin. 
( Oh, what is life but cold arithmetic 
Where fractions serve as subtleties and add 
Refinement to the rise and fall of dull, 
Blunt numbers shuffled indisputably: 
And what is death but mathematics where 
The numbers graduate to higher planes 
And leave a "terrifying" interest?) 

17 From Return to Emotion, by Maxwell Bodenheim. Reprinted by permission of 
Liveright Publishing Corporation. 



274 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Yet, something beyond pain within your shriek 

Would indicate, black man, that sky-large brains 

Can stumble in their count and recognize 

An eerie, unrelenting quality 

Forever in revolt against their plans. 

Emotion and its choking metaphors 

Insist that two times two is never quite 

The four that "life" methodically brands 

On nations and the ceaseless pain of men. 

You were accused of tendering a strong, 

Experimental hatred to the frail, 

Intense obstruction of a woman's flesh, 

And endlessly you squawked your innocence. 

But crime and justice do not live beyond 

The point where death, with one, efficient whim, 

Corrects the tongues of bungling, churlish men. 



POEM TO NEGRO AND WHITES 18 
by Maxwell Bodenheim 

The elevator rises, Negro men 
Receive from Whites a condescending, slight, 
Forever draped removal voice and pen 
Intensifying sugar half -contrite. 
A quiet, level spontaneity 
Springs only where familiar burdens pile, 
Far from the hired, night-club gaiety, 
The inexpensive speech, the tactful smile. 
The radio commentator rolls his trite 
Evasions, taste of soap within his mouth. 
Newspapermen who know the truth must write: 
"The delicate race question of the South." 
The South! for years, astute, coarse, windy bands 
Of men with venom blackening their lips 
Have ruled the South, but they are not the lands, 
The loads, the common, homely needs and whips. 
"By permission of author. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 275 

They are the ones who spur the lynchers" feet: 

They scurry out to spread old lie and smear. 

Without them, southern Negroes, Whites could meet 

And plan sane compromise within one year. 

The soldiers in the fox-holes, black and white, 

Must function with reliance and respect, 

And some who march back from pain-welded night 

Will shoulder memories close and erect. 

For in the centuries that seem to lift 

Almost too imperceptibly for hope, 

Equalities have been a threatened gift 

Wrenched from the dim light where men thrash and grope. 

This much we know a solid meeting sheers 

From arduous, scarcely noticed brotherhood: 

The bread, the stumbling labor shared for years, 

The mutual rescues, quiet, understood. 



A COMMUNICATION TO NANCY CUNARD 19 
by Kay Boyle 

These are not words set down for the rejected 
Nor for outcasts cast by the mind's pity 
Beyond the aid of lip or hand or from the speech 
Of fires lighted in the wilderness by lost men 
Reaching in fright and passion to each other. 
This is not for the abandoned to hear. 

It begins in the dark on a box-car floor, the groaning timber 

Stretched from bolt to bolt above the freight-train wheels 

That grind and cry aloud like hounds upon the trail, the breathing 

weaving 

Unseen within the dark from mouth to nostril, nostril to speaking mouth. 
This is the theme of it, stated by one girl in a box-car saying: 
"Christ, what they pay you don't keep body and soul together." 
"Where was you working?'* 'Working in a mill-town." 

"From A Glad Day, by Kay Boyle, copyright, 1938. Reprinted by permission 
of New Directions. 



276 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The other girl in the corner saying: "Working the men when we could 

get them." 
"Christ, what they pay you/* wove the sound of breathing, "don't keep 

shoes on your feet. 

Don't feed you. That's why we're shoving on." 

(This is not for Virginia Price or Ruby Bates, the white girls dressed 
like boys to go; not for Ozie Powell, six years in a cell playing the harp 
he played tap-dancing on the box-car boards; not for Olen Montgomery, 
the blind boy travelling towards Memphis that night, hopping a ride to 
find a doctor who could cure his eyes; not for Eugene Williams or 
Charlie Weems, not for Willie Robertson nor for Leroy and Andy 
Wright, thirteen years old the time in March they took him off the train 
in Paint Rock, Alabama; this is not for Clarence Norris or Haywood 
Patterson, sentenced three times to die. ) 

This is for the sheriff with a gold lodge pin 

And for the jury venireman who said: "Now, mos' folk don't go on 

And think things out. The Bible never speaks 

Of sexual intercourses. It jus' says a man knows a woman. 

So after Cain killed Abel he went off and knew a woman 

In the land of Nod. But the Bible tells as how 

There couldn't be no human folk there then. 

Now, jus' put two and two together. Cain had off-spring 

In the land of Nod so he musta had him a female baboon 

Or chimpanzee or somethin* like it. 

And that's how the nigger race begun." 
This is for the Sunday-school teacher with the tobacco-plug 
Who addressed the jury, the juice splattering on the wall, 
Pleading: "Whether in overalls or furs a woman is protected by the 

Alabama law 
Against the vilest crime the human species knows. Now, even dogs 

choose their mates, 

But these nine boys are lower than the birds of the air, 
Lower than the fish in the sea, lower than the beasts of the fields. 
There is a law reaching down from the mountain-tops to the swamps 

and caves 
It's the wisdom of the ages, there to protect the sacred parts of the 

female species 

Without them having to buckle around their middles 
Six-shooters or some other method of defense/* 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 277 

This is set down for the others: people who go and come, 

Open a door and pass through it, walk in the streets 

With the shops lit, loitering, lingering, gazing. 

This is for two men riding, Deputy Sheriff Sandlin, Deputy Sheriff 

Blacock, 

With Ozie Powell, handcuffed. Twelve miles out of Cullman 
They shot him through the head. 



THE TESTIMONY 

Haywood Patterson: Victoria Price: 
"So here goes an I shell try 

Faithfully an I possibly can "I 

Reference to myself in particularly cain't 

And concerning the other boys personal pride remember." 
And life time upto now. 

You must be patience with me and remember "I 

Most of my English is not of much interest cain't 

And that I am continually remember/' 
Stopping and searching for the word/' 

So here goes and I shall try faithfully as possible to tell you as I under- 
stand if not mistaken that Olen Montgomery, who was part blind then, 
kept saying because of the dark there was inside the box-car and out- 
side it: "It sure don't seem to me we re getting anywheres. It sure don't 
seem like it to me." I and my three comrades whom were with me, 
namely Roy Wright and his brother Andy and Eugene Williams, and 
about my character I have always been a good natural sort of boy, but 
as far as I am personally concerned about those pictures of me in the 
papers, why they are more or less undoubtedly not having the full like- 
ness of me for I am a sight better -looking than those pictures make me 
out. Why all my life I spent in and around working for Jews in their 
stores and so on and I have quite a few Jew friends whom can and 
always have gave me a good reputation as having regards for those 
whom have regards for me. The depression ran me away from home, 
I was off on my way to try my very best to find some work some else- 



278 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

where but misfortune befalled me without a moving cause. For it is 
events and misfortune which happens to people and how some must 
whom are less fortunate have their lives taken from them and how 
people die in chair for what they do not do. 



THE SPIBITUAL FOR NINE VOICES 

I went last night to a turkey feast (Oh, God, don't fail your chil- 
dren now!) 

My people were sitting there the way they'll sit in heaven 
With their wings spread out and their hearts all singing 
Their mouths full of food and the table set with glass ' 
(Oh, God, don't fail your children now! ) 

There were poor men sitting with their fingers dripping honey 
All the ugly sisters were fair. I saw my brother who never had a 

penny 

With a silk shirt on and a pair of golden braces 
And gems strewn through his hair. 

(Were you looking, Father, when the sheriffs came in? 
Was your face turned towards us when they had their say? ) 

There was baked sweet potato and fried corn pone 
There was eating galore, there was plenty in the horn. 

(Were you there when Victoria Price took the stand? 

Did you see the state attorney with her drawers in his hand? 

Did you hear him asking for me to burn?) 

There were oysters cooked in amplitude 
There was sauce in every mouth. 
There was ham done slow in spice and clove 
And chicken enough for the young and the old. 

(Was it you stilled the waters on horse-swapping day 

When the mob came to the jail? Was it you come out in a long 

tail coat 
Come dancing high with the word in your mouth?) 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 279 

I saw my sister who never had a cent 
Come shaking and shuffling between the seats. 
Her hair was straight and her nails were pointed 
Her breasts were high and her legs double-jointed, 

( Oh, God, don't fail your children now! ) 



THE SENTENCE 

Hear how it goes, the wheels of it travelling fast on the rails 
The box-cars, the gondolas running drunk through the night. 

Hear the long high wail as it flashes through stations unlit 
Past signals ungiven. running wild through a country 

A time when sleepers rouse in their beds and listen 
And cannot sleep again. 

Hear it passing in no direction, to no destination 

Carrying people caught in the box-cars, trapped on the coupled chert- 
cars 

(Hear the rattle of gravel as it rides whistling through the day and 
night.) 

Not the old or the young on it, nor people with any difference in their 
color or shape, 

Not girls or men, negroes or white, but people with this in common: 

People that no one had use for, had nothing to give to, no place to offer 

But the cars of a freight-train careening through Paint Rock, through 
Memphis, 

Through town after town without halting. 

The loose hands hang down, and swing with the swing of the train in 
the darkness, 

Holding nothing but poverty, syphilis white as a handful of dust, taking 
nothing as baggage 

But the sound of the harp Ozie Powell is playing or the voice of Mont- 
gomery 

Half -blind in oblivion saying: "It sure don't seem to me like we're 
getting anywheres. 

It don't seem to me like we're getting anywheres at all." 

(1937) 



280 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE TRIAL 20 

by Muriel Rukeyser 

The South is green with coming spring; revival 

flourishes in the fields of Alabama. Spongy with rain, 

plantations breathe April: carwheels suck mud in the roads, 

the town expands warm in the afternoons. At night the black boy 

teeters no-handed on a bicycle, whistling The St. Louis Blues, 

blood beating, and hot South. A red brick courthouse 

is vicious with men inviting death. Array your judges; call your jurors; 

come, 

here is your justice, come out of the cra2y jail. 
Grass is green now in Alabama; Birmingham dusks are quiet 
relaxed and soft in the park, stern at the yards: 
a hundred boxcars shunted off to sidings, and the hoboes 
gathering grains of sleep in forbidden corners. 
In all the yards: Atlanta, Chattanooga, 
Memphis, and New Orleans, the cars, and no jobs. 

Every night the mail-planes burrow the sky, 

carrying postcards to laughing girls in Texas, 

passionate letters to the Charleston virgins, 

words through the South: and no reprieve, 

no pardon, no release. 

A blinded statue attends before the courthouse, 

bronze and black men lie on the grass, waiting, 

the khaki dapper National Guard leans on its bayonets. 

But the air is populous beyond our vision: 

all the people's anger finds its vortex here 

as the mythic lips of justice open, and speak. 

Hammers and sickles are carried in a wave of strength, fire-tipped, 
swinging passionately ninefold to a shore. 

Answer the back-thrown Negro face of the lynched, the flat forehead 
knotted, 



Theory of Flight, by Muriel Rukeyser. Reprinted by permission of Yale 
University Press. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 281 

the eyes showing a wild iris, the mouth a welter of blood, 

answer the broken shoulders and these twisted arms. 

John Brown, Nat Turner, Toussaint stand in this courtroom, 

Dred Scott wrestles for freedom there in the dark corner, 

all our celebrated shambles are repeated here: now again 

Sacco and Vanzetti walk to a chair, to the straps and rivets 

and the switch spitting death and Massachusetts' will. 

Wreaths are brought out of history 

here are the well-nourished flowers of France, grown strong on blood, 

Caesar twisting his thin throat toward conquest, 

turning north from the Roman laurels, 
the Istrian galleys slide again to sea. 
How they waded through bloody Godfrey's Jerusalem! 
How the fires broke through Europe, and the rich 
and the tall jails battened on revolution! 
The fastidious Louis', cousins to the sun, stamping 
those ribboned heels on Galas, on the people; 
the lynched five thousand of America. 
Tom Mooney from San Quentin, Herndon: here 
is an army for audience 

all resolved 

to a gobbet of tobacco, spat, and the empanelled hundred, 
a jury of vengeance, the cheap pressed lips, the narrow eyes like hard- 
ware; 

the judge, his eye-sockets and cheeks dark and immutably secret, 
the twisting mouth of the prosecuting attorney. 

Nine dark boys spread their breasts against Alabama, 
schooled in the cells, fathered by want. 

Mother: one writes: they treat us bad. If they send 

us back to Kilby jail, I think I shall kill myself. 

I think I must hang myself by my overalls. 

Alabama and the South are soft with spring; 

in the North, the seasons change, sweet April, December and the air 

loaded with snow. There is time for meetings 

during the years, they remaining in prison. 



282 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

in the Square 

a crowd listens, carrying banners. 
Overhead, boring through the speaker's voice, a plane 
circles with a snoring of motors revolving in the sky, 
drowning the single voice. It does not touch 
the crowd's silence. It circles. The name stands: 
Scottsboro. 



THEY ARE OURS 21 

On the Scottsboro Boys 
by A. B. Magil 

They are ours; we claim them and we claim 
what they have suffered, upon our backs is laid 
the stone of their dark days, and we have made 
their name our name. 

These are the nine black boys, the stubborn fruit 
sprung from a sour soil manured with blood; 
these are the lives covered with lynchers' mud, 
withered at the root. 

But withered root becomes seed, and death becomes birth, 
and over all the Southland, on every farm 
the nine black boys are planted, rise ripe and warm 
through the bleeding earth. 

You who have lynched three years of their lives, who have taken 
the sun from their sky and buried their young strength away, 
see; on our shoulders we bear a new sun, a new day 
that shall not darken. 

Though you have drawn your noose around their throat, 
we come, the millions that do not beg or haggle, 
to bind them to us with the flesh of struggle 
and revolt. 

^Originally published in International Literature magazine. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 283 



RECAPITULATIONS 2 - 
by Karl Shapiro 



XI 



We waged a war within a war, 

A cause within a cause; 
The glory of it was withheld 

In keeping with the laws 
Whereby the public need not know 
The pitfalls of the status quo. 



Love was the reason for the blood: 

The black men of our land 
Were seen to walk with pure white girls 

Laughing and hand in hand. 
This most unreasonable state 
No feeling White would tolerate. 



We threw each other from the trams, 
We carried knives and pipes, 

We sacrificed in self-defense 
Some of the baser types, 

But though a certain number died 

You would not call it fratricide. 



The women with indignant tears 

Professed to love the Blacks, 
And dark and woolly heads still met 

With heads of English flax. 
Only the cockney could conceive 
Of any marriage so naive. 

"From Trial of a Poet and Other Poems, copyright, 1947, by Karl Shapiro^ 
Reprinted by permission of Reynal and Hitchcock, Inc. 



284 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Yet scarcely fifty years before 
Their fathers rode to shoot 

The undressed aborigines, 
Though not to persecute. 

A fine distinction lies in that 

They have no others to combat. 

By order of the high command 
The black men were removed 

To the interior and north; 
The crisis thus improved, 

Even the women could detect 

Their awful fall from intellect. 



THE SOUTHERNER 23 
by Karl Shapiro 

He entered with the authority of politeness 
And the jokes died in the air. A well-made blaze 
Grew round the main log in the fireplace 
Spontaneously. I watched its brightness 
Spread to the altered faces of my guests. 
They did not like the Southerner. I did. 
A liberal felt that someone should forbid 
That soft voice making its soft arrests. 

As when a Negro or a prince extends 
His hand to an average man, and the mind 
Speeds up a minute and then drops behind, 
So did the conversation of my friends. 
I was amused by this respectful awe 
Which those hotly deny who have no prince. 
I watched the frown, the stare, and the wince 
Recede into attention, the arms thaw. 

Copyright, 1947, by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc. From Trial of a Poet and 
Other Poems, copyright, 1947, by Karl Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Reynal 
and Hitchcock, Inc. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 285 

I saw my southern evil memories 

Raped from my mind before my eyes, my youth 

Practicing caste, perfecting the untruth 

Of staking honor on the wish to please. 

I saw my honor's paradox: 

Grandpa, the saintly Jew, keeping his beard 

In difficult Virginia, yet endeared 

Of blacks and farmers, although orthodox. 

The nonsense of the gracious lawn, 
The fall of hollow columns in the pines, 
Do these deceive more than the rusted signs 
Of Jesus on the road? Can they go on 
In the timeless manner of all gentlefolk 
There in a culture rotted and unweeded 
Where the black yoni of the South is seeded 
By crooked men in denims thin as silk? 

They do go on, denying still the fall 
Of Richmond and man, who gently live 
On the street above the violence, fugitive, 
Graceful, and darling, who recall 
The heartbroken country once about to flower, 
Full of black poison, beautiful to smell, 
Who know how to conform, how to compel, 
And how from the best bush to receive a flower. 



UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS 24 
by Hervey Allen 

The judge, who lives impeccably upstairs 
With dull decorum and its implication, 
Has all his servants in to family prayers, 
And edifies his soul with exhortation. 

^From Carolina Chansons, Legends of the Low Country, by Du Bose Heyward 
and Hervey Allen, copyright, 1922, by Rinehart & Company, Inc. 



286 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Meanwhile his blacks live wastefully downstairs; 
Not always chaste, they manage to exist 
With less decorum than the judge upstairs, 
And find withal a something that he missed. 

This painful fact a Swede philosopher, 
Who tarried for a fortnight in our city, 
Remarked, one evening at the meal, before 
We paralyzed him silent with our pity- 
Saying the black man living with the white 
Had given more than white men could requite. 



PORGY, MARIA, AND BESS 25 
fay Du Bose Heyward 

Porgy, Maria, and Bess, 
Bobbins, and Peter, and Crown; 
Life was a three-stringed harp 
Brought from the woods to town. 

Marvelous tunes you rang 

From passion, and death, and birth, 

You who had laughed and wept 

On the warm, brown lap of the earth. 

Now in your untried hands 
An instrument, terrible, new, 
Is thrust by a master who frowns, 
Demanding strange songs of you. 

God of the White and Black, 
Grant us great hearts on the way 
That we may understand 
Until you have learned to play. 

^y permission of Mrs. Du Bose Heyward. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 287 



MAMMY HUMS 26 
by Carl Sandburg 

This is the song I rested with: 

The right shoulder of a strong man I leaned on. 

The face of the rain that drizzled on the short neck of a canal boat. 

The eyes of a child who slept while death went over and under. 

The petals of peony pink that fluttered in a shot of wind come and gone. 

This is the song I rested with: 

Head, heels, and fingers rocked to the mammy humming of it, to the 
mile-off steamboat landing whistle of it. 

The murmurs run with bees' wings 

in a late summer sun. 
They go and come with white surf 

slamming on a beach all day. 

Get this. 

And then you may sleep with a late afternoon slumber sun. 
Then you may slip your head in an elbow knowing nothing only sleep, 
If so you sleep in the house of our song, 
If so you sleep under the apple trees of our song, 
Then the face of sleep must be the one face you were looking for. 



JAZZ FANTASIA 27 
by Carl Sandburg 

Drum on your drums, batter on your banjoes, 
sob on the long cool winding saxophones. 
Go to it, O jazzmen. 

^From Cornhuskers, by Carl Sandburg, copyright, 1918, by Henry Holt and 
Company. 

Trom Smoke and Steel, by Carl Sandburg, copyright, 1920, by Harcourt, Brace 
and Company, Inc. 



288 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy 
tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go husha- 
husha-hush with the slippery sand-paper. 

Moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome tree- 
tops, moan soft like you wanted somebody terrible, 
cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle 
cop, bang-bang! you jazzmen, bang altogether drums, 
traps, banjoes, horns, tin cans make two people fight 
on the top of a stairway and scratch each other's eyes 
in a clinch tumbling down the stairs. 

Can the rough stuff . . . now a Mississippi steamboat 
pushes up the night river with a hoo-hoo-hoo-oo . . . 
and the green lanterns calling to the high soft stars 
... a red moon rides on the humps of the low river 
hills ... go to it, O jazzmen. 



SONGS FOR A COLORED SINGER 28 
by Elizabeth Bishop 



A washing hangs upon the line, 

but it's not mine. 
None of the things that I can see 

belong to me. 
The neighbors got a radio with an aerial; 

we got a little portable. 
They got a lot of closet space; 

we got a suitcase. 

I say, "Le Roy, just how much are we owing? 

Something I can't comprehend, 

the more we got the more we spend. . . ." 

North and South, by Elizabeth Bishop. Reprinted by permission of 
Houghton Mifflin Company. 



II 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 289 

He only answers, "Let*s get going," 

Le Roy, you're earning too much money now. 

I sit and look at our back yard 

and find it very hard 
that all we got for all his dollars and cents 

's a pile of bottles by the fence. 
He's faithful and he's kind 

but he sure has an inquiring mind. 
He's seen a lot; he's bound to see the rest, 

and if I protest 

Le Roy will answer with a frown, 
"Darling, when I earns I spends. 
The world is wide; it still extends. . . . 
I'm going to get a job in the next town." 
Le Roy, you're earning too much money now. 



The time has come to call a halt; 

and so it ends. 

He's gone off with his other friends. 

He needn't try to make amends, 
'cause this occasion's all his fault. 

Through rain and dark I see his face 

across the street at Flossie's place. 

He's drinking in the warm pink glow 

to th' accompaniment of the piccolo. 

The time has come to call a halt. 
I met him walking with Varella 
and hit him twice with my umbrella. 
Perhaps that occasion was my fault, 
but the time has come to call a halt. 

Go drink your wine and go get tight. 
Let the piccolo play. 
I'm sick of all your fussing anyway. 
Now I'm going to go and take the bus 
and find someone monogamous. 



290 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The time has come to call a halt. 
I've borrowed fifteen dollars fare 
and it will take me anywhere. 
For this occasion's all his fault. 
The time has come to call a halt. 



Ill 



Lullaby. 

Adult and child 

sink to their rest. 

At sea the big ship sinks and dies, 

lead in its breast. 

Lullaby. 

Let nations rage, 

let nations fall. 

The shadow of the crib makes an enormous cage 

upon the wall. 

Lullaby. 

Sleep on and on, 

war's over soon. 

Drop the silly, harmless toy, 

pick up the moon. 

Lullaby. 

If they should say 

you have no sense, 

don't you mind them; it won't make 

much difference. 

Lullaby. 

Adult and child 

sink to their rest. 

At sea the big ship sinks and dies, 

lead in its breast. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 291 
IV 

What's that shining in the leaves, 
the shadowy leaves, 
like tears when somebody grieves, 
shining, shining in the leaves? 

Is it dew or is it tears, 

dew or tears, 

hanging there for years and years 

like a heavy dew of tears? 

Then that dew begins to fall, 
roll down and fall. 
Maybe it's not tears at all. 
See it, see it roll and fall. 

Hear it falling on the ground, 
hear, all around. 
That is not a tearful sound, 
beating, beating on the ground. 

See it lying there like seeds, 
like black seeds. 
See it taking root like weeds, 
faster, faster than the weeds, 

all the shining seeds take root, 
conspiring root, 

and what curious flower or fruit 
will grow from that conspiring root? 

Fruit or flower? It is a face. 
Yes, a face. 

In that dark and dreary place 
each seed grows into a face. 



292 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Like an army in a dream 
the faces seem, 
darker, darker, like a dream. 
They're too real to be a dream. 



SINGING IN THE DARK 29 
by Irma Wassail 



A blind girl singing on the radio. 

A blind young man "blacked on ?> the stage 
and guided off by a voice from the wings, 
unheard by the audience through the applause. 

A blind beggar in the City of Mexico, 

sitting with his guitar on the sidewalk, 
singing "Cielito Lindo" with his unseeing face 
lifted to the beautiful heaven of his song, 
in the warm sun that was black to him. 

All these 

Then others deliberately closing their brilliant eyes, 
looking inward, withdrawing: Roland Hayes, 
seeming almost to float across the dim 
stage to the dark polished piano; 
and Marian Anderson, at the Lincoln Memorial, 

before that enthralled, tremendous throng, 
singing in the darkness behind their own eyelids. 



ON A PICTURE BY PIPPIN, CALLED "THE DEN" 30 

To William Calfee 
by Selden Rodman 

Here is the way the white man's heaven felt 
That day in Paoli in Jane's chdteau, 

permission of author. Originally published in The Kansas Magazine, 1948. 
The Amazing Year, by Selden Rodman. Charles Scribner's Sons, pub- 
lishers. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 293 

A drink or two, or three, under your belt. 
Inside, the fire, and outside, the snow 
Reflected what was there: a wire screen, 
A bearskin and two leopard chairs, a flock 
(Along the mantelpiece) of European 
Porcelain dogs ascending to a clock. 

But what is here did not exist until 

Your art recalled what only children learn: 

That leopards have a thousand eyes; a grill 

Containing fire warms, but need not burn; 

Bears can be guardians; and on a sill 

Whose dogs deploy, the hands of Time are still. 



DAPHNE 31 

by Selden Rodman 

The god spoke once that made your girdle fall 

And then was gone. Whatever magic mastered 

That night your heart until its unsealed wall 

Caught fire on the frozen ground, was blasted 

When morning slew the dark and winter hung 

On every amorous curve its classic scaffold. 

Now here, now there, I watched you pose among 

Desires like a marble, and was baffled 

Till in a land too hot for stratagems, 

Where only priests and white men are immoral, 

I saw your lips sprout leaves and fingers stems; 

How floating in the sea your breasts were coral, 

Your eyes still brilliant but as hard as gems, 

And your hair that the god had breathed upon turned laurel. 

^From The Amazing Year, by Selden Rodman. Charles Scribner's Sons, pub- 
Jishers. 



294 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



NORRIS DAM 82 
by Selden Rodman 



Liberals raised this in their finest hour 

Thinking, between two worlds, to build a bridge; 

The doors say "WHITE" and "COLORED," and the power 
Stokes the atomic ovens at Oak Ridge. 



THE CASTLE 83 

by Sidney Alexander 

I watched them playing there upon the sand: 
the little white boy and the little black, 
their hands happy as the hands of artists 
shaping a castle of their dreams together. 
And as each turret grew, each battlement- 
exultant cries burst from one throat: 
They danced like prospectors striking oil 
at the wink of water in the tiny moat. 

And then the tide, the hateful tide rolled in. 
The boyhood castle crumbled. Innocence fled. 
A cloud coiled and struck like a cobra. 
The beach was starred with devils and with wrack. 
I saw them clutched in murder before my eyes 
the grown-up white man and the grown-up black. 

^From The Amazing 'Year, by Selden Rodman. Charles Scribner's Sons, pub- 
lishers. 

^By permission of author. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 295 



DEFEAT 34 

by Witter Bynner 



On a train in Texas German prisoners eat 
With white American soldiers, seat by seat 
While black American soldiers sit apart 
The white men eating meat, the black men heart. 
Now, with that other war a century done, 
Not the live North but the dead South has won: 
Not yet a riven nation comes awake. 
Whom are we fighting this time, for God's sake? 
Mark well the token of the separate seat- 
It is again ourselves that we defeat. 



THE STRONG SWIMMER 35 
by William Rose Benet 

I have a story fit to tell, 
In head and heart a song; 
A burning blue Pacific swell; 
A raft that was towed along. 

Out in the bloody Solomon Isles 
Destroyer Gregory gone; 
Ocean that kills for all her smiles, 
And darkness coming on. 

The Gregory's raft bobbed on the tide 
Loaded with wounded men. 
Ensign and seaman clung her side. 
Seaward she drifted then. 

^From Take Away the Darkness, copyright, 1944, 1947, by Witter Bynner. Re- 
printed by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

^From Day of Deliverance, copyright, 1944, by William Rose Benet. Reprinted 
by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 



296 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

A mess-attendant, a Negro man, 
Mighty of chest and limb, 
Spoke up: "Til tow you all I can 
As long as I can swim." 

Naked, he wound his waist with a line; 
Slipped smoothly overside, 
Where the red bubble tells the brine 
That sharks have sheared the tide. 

'Tm goin 9 to tow this old craft in 

Since we ain't got not one oar/* 

He breathed, as the water lapped his chin; 

And he inched that raft ashore. 

Strongly he stroked, and long he hauled 
No breath for any song. 
His wounded mates clung close, appalled. 
He towed that raft along. 

Clear to the eye the darkening swell 
Where glimmering dangers glide; 
The raft of sailors grimed from Hell 
Afloat on a smoky tide 

And a dark shoulder and muscled arm 
Lunging, steady and strong. 
The messman, their brother, who bears a charm, 
Is towing their raft along. 

He gasped, "Just say if Tm goin right!" 
Yes, brother, right you are! 
Danger of ocean or dark of night, 
You steer by one clear star. 

Six hours crawled by. ... A barge in sight 
With the raft just off the shore. . . . 
The messman coughed, "Sure, I'm all right/' 
He was just as he was before. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 297 

And all that they knew was they called him "French* 

Not quite a name to sing. 

Green jungle hell or desert trench, 

No man did a braver thing. 

He's burned a story in my brain, 
Set in my heart a song. 
He and his like, by wave and main, 
World without end and not in vain 
Are towing this world along! 



MY SOUTH 
by Don West 



Oh soft flowing rivers 

With slender willows 

Clutched hungrily 

To your bosom 

And red Georgia hills 

Where cotton patches 

Speckle the ground 

With downy snow balls 

Like a spotted hound's back, 

And lazy pools 

The deep green of corn blades 

In June 

Glisten under a Southern moon- 

You are my South. 

I found life deep in your womb 

And I love you . . . 

I love the sad solemn beauty 

In your mountains 

The great Blue Ridge, 

Cumberlands 

Smokies 

Unakas 



298 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

That stand like sentinels 
To witness the surge 
Of human passion 
Flowing through your ribs. 
Laughter and hate 
Of Southern toilers . . . 

And I love you who toil 

In the dirt 

And factories 

And mines 

You whose skin is ebony 

From a tropic sun 

And my own bleached brothers 

I love the slow soft drawl 

Of your Southern voice, 

The way you love the sound 

Of silence 

And the easy swing 

Of your bent shoulders . . . 

I've felt your deep sorrow 

In songs you sing 

And I've wanted to sing 

With you, 

To tune your songs 

Into keen blue blades 

Slashing at your chains, 

The cruel chains of hunger! 

Bift your eyes were blind 
And your hate was old 
Your brain was warped 
And your heart was cold . . . 

Oh, my South, 
My cold-blooded South 
With a Negro's blood 
Smeared over your mouth 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 299 

And a Negro's bones 
Which you blindly make 
A few charred coals 
By a burnt-off stake 

You have drunk poison 
And it turns you mad 
Like a rotten cancer 
Gnawing at your brain. 

And am I grinding 
The blades of my songs 
To a tempered edge 
To whittle on 
Your cancerous brain . . . 

Tomorrow you must wake 

And white hands will clasp 

Ebony 

Bowed over a few charred bones. 

By a burnt-off stake . . . 1 

You are my South; 
I'll hammer you 
Into a beautiful song 
For I love you , . . 



STREET SCENE 1946 38 
by Kenneth Porter 

On a street in Knoxville 
bless these eyes of minel- 
white man and a Negro 
form a picket linel 

Rankin and McKellar 
rant in Washington: 
^Originally published in Common Ground. 



300 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

over eastern Tennessee 
shows a streak of sun! 

Storms and shadows thicken. 
Here is fairing weather! 
Negro and a white man 
picketing together! 



GOVERNMENT INJUNCTION 37 

Restraining Harlem Cosmetic Co. 
by Josephine Miles 

They say La Jac Brite Pink Skin Bleach avails not, 
They say its Orange Beauty Glow does not glow, 
Nor the face grow five shades lighter nor the heart 
Five shades lighter. They say no. 

They deny good luck, love, power, romance and inspiration 
From La Jac Brite ointment and incense of all kinds, 
And condemn in writing skin brightening and whitening 
And whitening of minds. 

There is upon the federal trade commission a burden of glory 
So to defend the fact, so to impel 

The plucking of hope from the hand, honor from the complexion, 
Sprite from the spell. 



BOOGIE-WOOGIE BALLADS 88 
by St. Clair McKelway 

The Touchin Case of Mr. and Mrs. Massa 

Oh, let's fix us a julep and kick us a houn 7 
(Sing "Yassah! Yassah! Yassah!") 

37 From Poems of Several Occasions, by Josephine Miles, copyright, 1941. Re- 
printed by permission of New Directions. 

permission of the author. Copyright, 1943, The New Yorker magazine, Inc, 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 301 

And let's dig a place in de coF, cof groun' 
For Mr. and Mrs. Massa! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, this Mr. and Mrs. Massa have always lived in old Virginia and old 
North Carolina and old South Carolina and old Alabama and old Ken- 
tucky and old So Forth and old So On and nobody has ever understood 
the colored people the way they do because down in old So Forth and 
old So On is where the white folks understand the colored folks like no 
other white folks on earth understand colored folks. Yassah, Massa! 
Yassah! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, before the war and for some time afterward Mr. and Mrs. Massa 
understood the colored folks so well that they had a washerwoman they 
paid $1.50 a week and a cook they paid $1.75 a week and a butler they 
paid $2.25 a week and it was mighty lucky for these colored folks that 
the washerwoman was the cook's mother and the butler was the cook^ 
husband because this enabled the three of them to live cozily in the 
fifth one-room shack from the left on the other side of the railroad tracks 
and thus pay $0.85 less a week for rent than the total of their combined 
salaries. 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Qh, and over and above the total of their combined salaries Mrs. Massa 
every other week gave the cook a ham bone outright and Mr. Massa 
every other month gave the butler a whole quarter of a dollar extra 
right out of a clear sky. It was manna, Mammyl Manna! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, but after the war had been going along for a while the butler, 
whose name was Charles F. Parker, came to Mr, Massa and told him he 
was going to quit because he had been offered a job as a counterman in 
the cafeteria of a defense plant at a salary of $15 a week plus three 
meals a day and Mr. Massa understood the colored folks so well he told 
Charles F, Parker that up to then he (Mr. Massa) had been able 



302 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

through influence to persuade the local draft board not to draft him 
(Charles F. Parker) but that if he (Charles F. Parker) quit his job as 
butler he (Mr. Massa) would have to persuade the draft board to go 
ahead and draft him (Charles F. Parker). Swing low, sweet Lincoln! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, but then Charles F. Parker told Mr. Massa that as he (Charles F. 
Parker) understood the situation after conversations with the draft 
board he (Charles F. Parker) had already been classed as 4-F owing 
to a number of physical disabilities, including chronic hoecake poison- 
ing, and that therefore he thought he would take the job at the defense- 
plant cafeteria but with all due respect to Mr. Massa, etc. and etc. Hit 
that hoecake, boys! Hit it! 

( Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, so Mr. and Mrs. Massa saw the straws in the wind, saw which way 
the wind was blowing, and also recognized the trend of the time, so 
they took another tack, changed face, turned over new leaves, and each 
gave Charles F. Parker fifteen cents as a bonus and wished him success 
in his new job and raised the washerwoman (Esther G. Henderson) 
from $1,50 a week to $1.75 a week and raised the cook ( Mrs. Charles F. 
Parker) from $1.75 a week to $1.85 a week with the understanding that 
Mrs. Esther G. Henderson would help out Mrs. Charles F. Parker in the 
kitchen and that Mrs. Charles F. Parker would wait on the table. Pass 
the hominy grits, boys! Pass it! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, but at the end of the first week under the new arrangement Mrs. 
Charles F. Parker came to Mrs. Massa and said she was going to quit 
because she had been offered a job as cook at the defense-plant cafe- 
teria at a salary of $22.50 per week plus three meals a day and Mrs. 
Massa jus' had to cry. Weep some mo', my lady, oh, weep some mo'! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, and then the washerwoman (Esther G. Henderson) came to Mrs. 
Massa and said she was going to quit because she was eighty-two years 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NON-NEGROES 303 

old and her back ached and her daughter and son-in-law were going to 
support her for nothing, and Mrs. Massa jus' had to cry some mo'! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, and then one day a week after that Mr. and Mrs. Massa were walk- 
ing back home after a dinner at the Old Southern Greek Chophouse and 
they saw Charles F. Parker and Mrs. Charles F. Parker and Esther G. 
Henderson coming out of the colored section of a movie house after 
having seen a Technicolored feature featuring Jack Benny and Mr. and 
Mrs. Massa noticed that Charles F. Parker had on a new suit and looked 
happy and that Mrs. Charles F. Parker had on a new dress and looked 
happy and that Esther G. Henderson had on a new shawl and looked 
happy and moreover was still laughing at the jokes Jack Benny had 
made inside the movie house and Mr. and Mrs. Massa saw the three of 
them go into a three-room stucco bungalow where Esther G. Hender- 
son had a room all to herself and Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Parker had a 
room all to themselves and then Mr. and Mrs. Massa looked at each 
other understandingly and tears came into the eyes of Mrs. Massa and 
Mr. Massa put his hand on her shoulder and said to her softly, "Nevah 
you mind, there'll be a reckonin' one of these days!" 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Oh, and so Mr. and Mrs. Massa finally closed up the house in old So 
Forth and old So On and came to New York and leased a suite at the 
Savoy-Plaza and the Savoy-Netherlands and the Savoy-So Forth and the 
Savoy-So On and any time you want to listen day or night as well as any 
time you don't want to listen day or night they will tell you for hours 
without stopping how they understand the colored people like no other 
white folks on earth understand colored folks and how the war and high 
wages are jus' ruinin' everything down in old So Forth and old So On 
and how never you mind there's goin' to be a reckonin' one of these 
days. Reckon twice and hit it again, boys! Hit it! 

(Boogie-woogie) 

j 

Oh, and the bones of Mr. and Mrs. Massa are not growing cold and 
their heads are not bending low and no angel voices are calling to them 



304 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

and if nobody will carry them back to old So Forth and old So On, oh, 
then. . * , 

(Boogie-woogie) 

Let's fix us a julep and kick us a houn' 
(Sing "Yassah! Yassah! Yassah!") 
And let's dig a place in de col', col' groun' 
For Mr. and Mrs. Massal 



LENOX AVENUE 39 
by Sidney Alexander 

And it came to pass, 

when Joseph was come unto his "brethren, 

that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, 

his coat of many colors that was on him; 

And they took him, and cast him into a pit: 

and the pit was empty, 

there was no water in it. 

GENESIS XXXVH 

With the hooves of a doe 
my eye has wandered into this strange forest: 
Soft-footed, break no twigs, stir no grass; 
the underfoot of last year's death is here 

Cactuses of men 
weird against the sky . . . 
Fantastic shapings of the poor . . . 
Waste of seed . . . 

And swaying to the icy air of flutes 
the chorus of the prostitutes 
led by hunger to the act of dogs 
"Originally published in The Negro Quarterly, fall 1942. 



TRIBUTARY POEMS BY NOM-NEGROES 305 

The palm-leaf is your mouth, 

And sinuous as rivers down the perfumed banks 

Your hips before me on the avenue. 

And you, O bronze boy, playing at the curb, 
Why do you stare with eyes of a mountain-pool 
suddenly freezing over at my step? 
What is there in the pinkness of my skin 
makes me an interloper in your home? 
A lost stag in a lost valley, 
startled at the muttering horizons, 
hemmed by the pointing of fingers 

The questions whirl, the mind sees 
the shadow hanging from the trees; 
green by day and purple by night; 
The wind kissing the innocent leaves, 
And ever behind me is the tread 
of guilt creeping toward my bed . , . 

For though I have not sown, yet I must reap: 
The harvests of hatred are shared; 
The galley-slave is chained to my oar; 
The cotton is bloodied at my door; 
The storm breaks. No one is spared. 

When freedom's rose blooms in the senator's mouth 
Does he hear the beating of that drum? 
the tomtom stretched of his failure? 
the seamstress and the shoeshine boy 
whirling round the cauldron of his bones? 

When the statue bleeds 

When the motionless move 

When the tiger leaps from the cates of these eyes? 

So before me, Lenox Avenue, 

you pass like a dream half-realized, 

Twisted by anger and fear. . . . 



306 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Your loungers of a jungle grace 
Your numbers on the flung dice 
Your exclamations of cigars 
Your marijuana and your bread. 

Those who cast you in the pit have fled. 
The caravan has come. Give me your hand! 
In that embrace stars shall explode, 
And brotherhood like a coat of many colors 
Cover the nakedness of man. 



3 



THE CARIBBEAN 



JAMAICA 



THE CARIBBEAN 1 
by Stephanie Ormsby 



Here where the pirate chieftains sailed 
In quest of gore and gold, 
Where brutal, bloody Might prevailed 
We pass, with none to hold. 

Thought dreams behind, Hope flies before 
The sea knows naught of years. 
The white foam flashes as of yore, 
And melts in pearls and tears. 



SAN GLORIA 
by Tom Redcam 



Oh, Captain of wide western seas, 
Where now thy great soul lives, dost thou 
Recall San Gloria's spice-'censed breeze? 

White-sanded curves where serried trees 
Filed backward as thy sharpened prow 
Sheared into foam the racing seas? 

San Gloria's wood-carved mountain frieze 

In the blue bay is mirrored now, 

As when thy white sail wooed the breeze. 

The thunder of insurgent seas 

Beats yet the rough reefs ragged brow, 

Roaring by green, far-stretching leas; 



*By permission of author. 



310 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Yet through the wood the peony flees, 
And frets with gold the night-dark bough 
Down the long avenue of trees. 

Still flowering gyneps tempt the bees, 
The yellow guave ripens now, 
Rich-hearted ipomes please. 

Dost thou remember things like these, 
Hear yet the dark-robed woodlands sough, 
Oh, Captain of wide western seas, 
Dost thou remember things like these 
Where thy great soul inhabits now? 



JAMAICA MARKET 
by Agnes Maxwell-Hall 



Honey, pepper, leaf -green limes, 
Pagan fruit whose names are rhymes, 
Mangoes, breadfruit, ginger-roots, 
Granadillas, bamboo-shoots, 
Cho-cho, ackees, tangerines, 
Lemons, purple Congo-beans, 
Sugar, okras, kola-nuts, 
Citrons, hairy cocoanuts, 
Fish, tobacco, native hats, 
Gold bananas, woven mats, , 
Plantains, wild-thyme, pallid leeks, 
Pigeons with their scarlet beaks, 
Oranges and saffron yams, 
Baskets, ruby guava jams, 
Turtles, goat-skins, cinnamon. 
Allspice, conch-shells, golden rum. 
Black skins, babel and the sun 
That burns all colours into one. . 



THE CARIBBEAN 311 



LIZARD 

by Agnes Maxwell-Hall 



O, what would people say if you 
Ate bitter-tasting ants, drank dew, 
Caught gnats as blue as summer skies, 
And swallowed painted butterflies? 

And what would people think, if then 
You laid eggs just like any hen- 
Forgot them in a windy nest, 
And left the sun to do the rest? 



Leave everyone come sit with me 
In trees; the things you'll hear and seel 
And lead a lizard-life I'm one! 
A pocket-dragon in the sun! 



BOYHOOD ETCHINGS 2 
by Walter Adolphe Roberts 

I: Tropic Sunset 

Oh, full and soft, upon the orange trees, 

Flamed forth bright beams of glory from the West! 

And through the boughs there sighed a gypsy breeze. 
Bearing a thousand perfumes on its breast. 

For it had kissed the coffee's starry spray, 
Had stolen sweetness from the lily's bell, 

And I had seen the stephanotis sway 
Before its breath, as it swept up the dell. 

a Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts. 



3U THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



The feathery bamboos pencilled on the sky, 
The cedars branches garbed in August green, 

The palms that stirred storm-tattered fronds on high- 
All breathed the languor of the hour serene. 



II: Tropic Storm 

The scent of jasmines in the sultry air, 

A deathly stillness hanging over all, 
Great sombre clouds, which float across the sky 

And hide the sun ? as with a funeral pall. 

The birds' sweet voices silenced in the trees, 
As if they had not got the heart to sing, 

As on some twig, close-sheltered by the leaves, 

Each sits with ruffled plumes and drooping wing. 

But now a sullen murmur breaks the calm, 
The gathering East wind stirs the vapors warm, 

The roll of thunder smites upon the ear, 

The lightning flashes red and bursts the storm. 



THE CAPTAINS 3 

by Walter Adolphe Roberts 

A glamor of regret is on the brown 

And placid streets of this old harbor town, 

That wear their pride like a Victorian gown. 

They mourn the vanished captains and their fleets, 
Whose cargoes once were spices and strange sweets, 
Parrots, and marmosets, and parakeets. 

"Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts. 



THE CARIBBEAN 313 



SAN FRANCISCO* 

by Walter Adolphe Roberts 



My galleon of adventure 

Beat through the Golden Gate. 
The sailors said it was a ship 

With passengers and freight. 

But I was young and dreamful. 

Dreams were the best of me. 
And I, to San Francisco, 

Came dreaming from the sea. 

I found a woman city, 

Suave as a cooing dove. 
I sought her as a lover, 

But was too young for love. 

Draped on her like a mantle. 
Her fog was cool and gray; 

But since her girdle baffled me, 
She sent me on my way. 

Now I have learned that poets 
When youth is gone kiss best, 

I think, if I went back, that she 
Would take me to her breast. 



VILLANELLE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE 5 
by Walter Adolphe Roberts 

The starshine on the Arch is silver white; 

Elves, April elves, are dancing in the Square; 
The green-robed Spring has come to town tonight 

*' 5 Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts. 



314 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Jasmines are in her arms and clouded quite 

With lilac is the nimbus of her hair; 
The starshine on the Arch is silver white. 

With sap at floodtide and pale leaves bedight, 

Ghosts of gray trees assume a vernal air; 
The green-robed Spring has come to town tonight. 

Young lovers' lips seek for the old delight, 

On the park bench that winter-long was bare 

The starshine on the Arch is silver white 

And they who hear her primal call aright 

Rejoice that, deathless, virginal and fair, 
The green-robed Spring has come to town tonight. 

Dreamers whose windows on the Square are bright, 

Know that your dreams may not witH this compare; 
The starshine on the Arch is silver white. 
The green-robed Spring has come to town tonight. 



VILLANELLE OF THE LIVING PAN 6 
by Walter Adolphe Roberts 

Pan is not dead, but sleeping in the brake, 
Hard by the blue of some Aegean shore. 
Ah, flute to him, Beloved, he will wake. 

Vine leaves have drifted o'er him, flake by flake, 

And with dry laurel he is covered o'er. 
Pan is not dead, but sleeping in the brake. 

The music that his own cicadas make 

Comes to him faintly, like forgotten lore. 
Ah, flute to him, Beloved, he will wake. 

'Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts, 



THE CARIBBEAN 315 

Let not the enemies of Beauty take 

Unction of soul that he can rise no more. 
Pan is not dead, but sleeping in the brake, 

Dreaming of one that for the goat god's sake 

Shall pipe old tunes and worship as of yore. 
Ah, flute to him, Beloved, he will wake. 

So once again the Attic coast shall shake 

With a cry greater than it heard before: 
"Pan is not dead, but sleeping in the brake!'* 
Ah, flute to him, Beloved, he will wake. 



PEACOCKS 7 

by Walter Adolphe Roberts 

They came from Persia to the Sacred Way 
And rode in Pompey's triumph, side by side 
With odalisques and idols, plumes flung wide. 

A flame of gems in the chill Roman day. 

They that were brought as captives came to stay, 
To flaunt in beauty, mystery and pride, 
To preen before the emperors deified, 

Symbols of their magnificent decay. 

Then there was madness and a scourge of swords. 

Imperial purple mouldered into dust. 
But the immortal peacocks stung new lords 

To furies of insatiable lust. 
Contemptuous, they loitered on parade- 
Live opals, rubies, sardonyx and jade. 

7 Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts. 



316 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



VIEUX CARRE 8 

by Walter Adolphe Roberts 



This city is the child of France and Spain, 
That once lived nobly, ardent as the heat 
In which it came to birth. Alas, how fleet 

The years of love and arms! There now remain, 

Bleached by the sun and mouldered by the rain, 
Impassive fronts that guard some rare retreat, 
Some dim, arched salon, or some garden sweet, 

Where dreams persist and the past lives again. 

The braided iron of the balconies 
Is like locked hands, fastidiously set 

To bar the world. But the proud mysteries 
Showed me a glamour I may not forget: 

Your face, camellia-white upon the stair, 

Framed in the midnight thicket of your hair. 



ON A MONUMENT TO MARTP 
by Walter Adolphe Roberts 

Cuba, disheveled, naked to the waist, 

Springs up erect from the dark earth and screams 

Her joy in liberty. The metal gleams 

Where her chains broke. Magnificent her haste 

To charge into the battle and to taste 

Revenge on the oppressor. Thus she seems. 

But she were powerless without the dreams 

Of him who stands above, unsmiling, chaste. 

Yes, over Cuba on her jubilant way 
Broods the Apostle, Jose Julian Marti. 

8 ' e Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts. 



THE CARIBBEAN 317 



He shaped her course of glory, and the day 
The guns first spoke he died to make her free. 
That night a meteor flamed in splendid loss 
Between the North Star and the Southern Cross. 



THE MAROON GIRL 10 

by Walter Adolphe Roberts 



I see her on a lonely forest track, 
Her level brows made salient by the sheen 
Of flesh the hue of cinnamon. The clean 

Blood of the hunted, vanished Arawak 

Flows in her veins with blood of white and black. 
Maternal, noble-breasted is her mien; 
She is a peasant, yet she is a queen. 

She is Jamaica poised against attack. 

Her woods are hung with orchids; the still flame 
Of red hibiscus lights her path, and starred 
With orange and coffee blossoms in her yard. 

Fabulous, pitted ifiountains close the frame. 

She stands on ground for which her fathers died; 
Figure of savage beauty, figure of pride. 



LITANY 

by George Campbell 

I hold the splendid daylight in my hands 
Inwardly grateful for a lovely day. 
Thank you life. 

Daylight like a fine fan spread from my hands 
Daylight like scarlet poinsettia 
Daylight like yellow cassia flowers 
Daylight like clean water 
Daylight like green cacti 

10 Reprinted by permission of Walter Adolphe Roberts. 



318 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Daylight like sea sparkling with white horses 

Daylight like sunstrained blue sky 

Daylight like tropic hills 

Daylight like a sacrament in my hands. 

Amen. 



LIZARD 11 

by K. E. Ingram 

In the tender spreading tropical mornings 

The collandium leaves extend themselves 

To the quivering flaming light 

Spread out so open and so wide 

Like giant red spiders with their feet webbed together. 

O webbed so very neatly; 

And forming such cool soft divans for the lizard's belly, 

For lizards lie belly-leafed in the early dawning. 

One little fellow lies reared on his fore-legs 

Upright and aware towards the leaping light, 

For lizards are very aware little creatures seldom caught off guard: 

As I turned the corner this little fellow 

Had cocked his head inquiringly 

Demanding of me the password. 

'Who goes?" 

And when I still have made no motion, friendly or hostile, 
He still with head question-wise insists, 

"Who goes?" 

And then I put my question to him, 

What was he doing out there in the spreading, flaming light 

In the burning gold of the new-risen sun, 

When I had always thought that the lizard's world 

n By permission of author. First published in the Jamaican weekly, Public 
Opinion. 



THE CARIBBEAN 319 

Was a green-world, gloom-world, 

Beneath the mysterious shade of leaf and fern 

Where stalk knows root on the hard earth's lip; 

Had he deserted his unknowable world of 

Lizard-leap, lizard-dive and lizard-chase. 

And then, just as I turned, 

Just as I couldn't stand his impertinent slow-eyed stare, 

He jumped, jumped into the deep gloom of the leaf-shade, 

As if to show me how superior he was 

For he was able to experience my world and his own. 

And I was left wondering what new blood was now creeping through 

his veins, 

Through his limpid green veins, 
This cold-blooded, cool-world creature 
That had ventured forth into the spilling morning light 



NINE O'CLOCK 
by Louis Simpson 

At nine o'clock the bus snouts cityward 
Surfeited, and groaning at every start; 
The passengers, in lulls of being tossed, 
With relish chew their misanthropic cud. 

Reluctantly agreed, their bodies sway, 

While, clogged with too much marmalade at heart, 

Again they pick up pins of grievance lost, 

Nudge room from neighbours going the same way. 

They scan the usual banners of world hate. 

A girl clutching her purse conjures the cost 

Of daily lunch, or shoes that might be smart, 

Or matinees . . . she strokes a perfumed pate. , . . 

And Charon, coming round for his due fare, 
Collects all men's frustrations in a stare. 



320 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



DINNER PARTY, 1940 
by P. M. Sherlock 

Do you mind the news while we eat? 

So, guests assenting, 
The well-bred voice from Daventry 
Mingled with sounds from the pantry 
And slowly through the ether spilled 
Its syllables not silencing augmenting 
The show of wit which never fails 
Thanks to 7: 30 cocktails . . . "and at 

Narvik where for 5 days a storm has raged a few were killed" 
More mutton Alice? Yes, it's delicious dear 
Yesterday at bridge I held three aces, three 

"In the Baltic 

It is reported from Stockholm that the soldiers fled 
Leaving a number of dead.** 

But don't you like it cold with guava-jelly? 

The well-bred voice from Daventry 

Did not grow less well-bred, 

And did not speak of more than 3 or 400 dead, 

And did not really silence the sounds from the pantry 

Or the show of wit which never fails 

Thanks to 7:30 cocktails. 

Cold mutton is delicious with guava-jelly 

And does not seriously incommode 

Like cold lead in the belly. 



THE FINAL MAN 
by Basil McFarlane 



This is the final man; 
Who lives within the dusk, 
Who is the dusk 
Always. 



THE CARIBBEAN 321 

To know birth and to know death 

In one emotion, 

To look before and after with one eye, 

To see the Whole, 

To know the Truth, 

To know the World and be without a World: 

In this light that is no light, 

This time that is no time, to be 

And to be free: 

This is the final man, 

Who lives within the dusk, 

Who is the dusk 

Always. 



ON NATIONAL VANITY 
by J. E. Clare McFarlane 



Slowly we learn; the oft repeated line 
Lingers a little moment and is gone; 
Nation on Nation follows, Sun on Sun; 

But we are blind and see not. In our pride 
We strain toward the petrifying mound 
To sit above our fellows, and we ride 
The slow and luckless toiler to the ground. 

Fools are we for our pains! Whom we despise, 
Last come, shall mount our withered vanities, 
Topmost to sit upon the vast decay 
Of time and temporal things; for, last or first, 
The proud array of pictured bubbles burst; 
Mirages of their glory pass away. 



322 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



THE CAGED MONGOOSE 
by Constance Hollar 



Within the cage he ramped and raged! 

His jailer, proud, exultant, stood before him, 

The while he hissed and spat 

Forth fury. His tail, all reddish silver, 

Coiled high in bristling anger, flashed 

Upon his back. His sleek grey sides 

Like ribbon gleamed. His eyes, 

Keen steel-bright rapiers, 

Cut the distance as a Damasc blade 

A skein of silk. 

His white teeth gleamed like daggers, 

As he flew and bit the wooden bars, 

As in old days he slew the snake, 

Or cracked the bones of juicy chickens 

Or stole the red gold 

From the crystal fountain of the egg. 

No prayer for pity crossed his lips, 

But curses deep, rage and despair. 

I turned aside I could not bear 
To see him drowned. To see the light 
Go out from those bright eyes- 
But, fascinated, turned and looked 
Just as he went beneath the pool 
And saw two fore-feet 
High-uplifted, clenched, 
As if in prayer. 

A gurgling sound! A hissing breath! 
The problem of both Life and Death 
Was solved for him. 
His race was run. 



Beneath the bamboo tree 
His brown mate waited till the dusk: 



THE CARIBBEAN 323 

She and her little ones, 

And oft she raised her eyes and peered, 

Or nosed the ground. 

Then with half -sigh she settled 

'Midst the leaves again. 

In that blind patience of dumb animals 

She made her prayer. 

And I pray too 

For all the chased and hunted "little ones" of earth, 

For cattle with black fear within their hearts, 

Imprisoned in the cruel slaughter-yards, 

For patient sheep and goats 

Led to the Sacrifice. 

For foxes hunted by the loud-voiced pack, 

For hares fast coursing down the wind, 

Also for barn-yard fowls 

In feathers clean and neat, 

For all the graceful birds on wing 

Now airy joys then broken bones and blood, 

To "make a Roman holiday": 

For all who yield the sweet delights of Life 

Unasked, unwilling and with grievous fear 

And voiceless agony, 

I make my prayer to God and man. 



I, REMEMBERING 
by Roger Mais 



I, remembering how light love 

Has a soft footfall, and fleet, 

That goes clicking down 

The heart's lone 

And empty street 

In a kind 

Of spread twilight-nimbus of the mind, 



324 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



And a soft voice of shaken laughter 
Like the wind . . . 

I, remembering this, 

And remembering that light love is 

As fragile as a kiss 

Lightly given, 

And passes like the little rain 

Softly down-driven; 

Bade love come to you 
With rough male footsteps- 
Deliberate 
That hurt to come, 
And hurt to go. ... 
And bade love speak to you 
With accents terrible, and slow. 



HUNTED 

by Una Marson 



The hunted hare seeks out some dark retreat 
And hopes the pulsing pack will pass him by 
His body quivers, fast his heart must beat 
As oft he hears the heartless huntsmen's cry: 
So hunted still by love's relentless might 
With heart convulsing and with hasty tread 
I seek some refuge, hidden from his sight 
So he might pass whom I so darkly dread; 
Pass on, and leave me there to die of grief 
Or solaced back to life in Nature's arms 
On her soft soothing breast to find relief 
And half forget the sorrow of love's charms: 
But lo! he comes with his own cruel dart 
To find me out and wound for sport my heart. 



THE CARIBBEAN 325 



NIGHTFALL 
by Una Marson 



How tender the heart grows 
At the twilight hour, 
More sweet seems the perfume 
Of the sunless flower. 

Come quickly, wings of night, 
The twilight hurts too deep; 
Let darkness wrap the world around, 
My pain will go to sleep. 



THE GLEANER 
by Vivian L. Virtue 



". . . And Ruth the Modbitess . . . 

came to Bethlehem 

in the beginning of barley harvest." 

Gleaning she goes down the far golden ways, 
Longing her garment, with Loneliness shod, 
Lift up your hearts, all ye sons, in her praise! 

Bethlehem fields are with harvest ablaze: 
Fairer than she not among them has trod; 
Gleaning she goes down the far golden ways. 

Daughter most dutiful, lo ? in her gaze 

Faith that not Sorrow could break with its rod! 

Lift up your hearts, all ye sons, in her praise! 

Hark the rare words that she steadfastly says, 
All thine be mine till we home to the clod. . . . 
Gleaning she goes down the far golden ways. 



326 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Binding the sheaves of ripe barley she prays; 
Answer her, Heaven! raise her hope from the sod! 
Lift up your hearts, all ye sons, in her praise! 

Cometh fulfilment . . . O joy and amaze! 
Out of her faithfulness flowers our God. 
Gleaning she goes down the far golden ways, 
Lift up your hearts, all ye sons, in her praisel 



ATLANTIC MOONRISE 
by Vivian L Virtue 

The new-washed moon drew up from the sea's dark rim. 

Naked, and unsuspecting, on my sight 

Her bosom dripped, till, struck with virgin fright, 

Catching my gaze, she snatched a cloud-fold dim 

Across the delightsome shame that flushed each limb, 

Mocking the hunger in me to possess her bright 

Divinity with proper, prudish spite, 

With beauty's conscious sovereignty and whim. 

Baffled I waited, burning with desire; 

Then with such slow magnificent pretence, 

As though I were not there, she stripped again. . . . 

I stood like David on the roof, the fire 

Of young Bathsheba torturing his sense, 

Bartered, like him, my peace for Beauty's pain. 



TO CLAUDE McKAY 
by Vivian L Virtue 

Far from your native hills although you roam, 
How would your heart rejoice this picnic day 
With rustic fiddle and flute and roundelay 
To welcome August, from the dawning gloam* 



THE CARIBBEAN 327 



Until the new moon climbed the dewy dome, 
Lingered above your village, went her way, 
Leaving, night long, dusk limbs to trip and sway 
To rhythmic dance and song in fields of home! 

These have not changed, old loves you left behind; 

The rural sights and sounds are lovely yet 

And times and seasons that would make you yearn 

With lyrical remembrance and regret 

For pathways waiting your delayed return 

Of long, long years of pain to ease your mind. 

THE TROPICS IN NEW YORK 12 
by Claude McKay 

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root, 
Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, 
And tangerines and mangoes and grapefruit, 
Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs, 

Set in the window, bringing memories 
Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills, 
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies 
In benediction over nun-like hills, 

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze; 
A wave of longing through my body swept, 
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways, 
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept. 

AFTER THE WINTER 18 
by Claude McKay 

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves 

And against the morning's white 
The shivering birds beneath the eaves 

Have sheltered for the night, 

^From Spring in New Hampshire, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1920. Grant 
Richards, Ltd., publishers; from Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright, 
1922. Harcourt, Brace & Co., publishers. 



32S THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



We'll turn our faces southward, love, 

Toward the summer isle 
Where bamboos spire to shafted grove 

And wide-mouthed orchids smile. 

And we will seek the quiet hill 

Where towers the cotton tree, 
And leaps the laughing crystal rill, 

And works the droning bee. 
And we will build a cottage there 

Beside an open glade, 
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near, 

And ferns that never fade. 



HERITAGE 14 

by Claude McKay 

Now the dead past seems vividly alive, 

And in this shining moment I can trace, 
Down through the vista of the vanished years, 

Your fatm-like form, your fond elusive face. 

And suddenly some secret spring's released, 

And unawares a riddle is revealed, 
And I can read like large, black-lettered print, 

What seemed before a thing forever sealed. 

I know the magic word, the graceful thought, 

The song that fills me in my lucid hours, 
The spirit's wine that thrills my body through, 

And makes me music-drunk, are yours, all yours. 

I cannot praise, for you have passed from praise, 
I have no tinted thoughts to paint you true; 

But I can feel and I can write the word; 
The best of me is but the least of you. 

"From Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright. 1922. Harcourt, Brace 
& Co., publishers. 



THE CAWBBEAN 329 



SPRING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE 15 
by Claude McKay 



Too green the springing April grass, 
Too blue the silver-speckled sky, 

For me to linger here, alas, 
While happy winds go laughing by, 

Wasting the golden hours indoors, 

Washing windows and scrubbing floors. 

Too wonderful the April night, 
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers, 

The stars too gloriously bright, 

For me to spend the evening hours, 

When fields are fresh and streams are leaping, 

Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping. 



TO O.E.A. 16 

by Claude McKay 

Your voice is the color of a robin's breast, 

And there's a sweet sob in it like rain still rain in the night. 
Among the leaves of the trumpet-tree, close to his nest, 

The pea-dove sings, and each note thrills me with strange delight 
Like the words, wet with music, that well from your trembling throat. 

I'm afraid of your eyes, they're so bold, 

Searching me through, reading my thoughts, shining like gold. 
But sometimes they are gentle and soft like the dew on the lips of the 

eucharis 
Before the sun comes warm with his lover's kiss. 

You are sea-foam, pure with the star's loveliness, 
Not mortal, a flower, a fairy, too fair for the beauty-shorn earth. 



Spring in New Hampshire, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1920. Grant 
Richards, Ltd., publishers; from Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright, 
1922, Harcourt, Brace & Co., publishers. 



330 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

All wonderful things, all beautiful things, gave of their wealth to your 

birth. 

Oh I love you so much, not recking of passion, that I feel it is wrong! 
But men will love you, flower, fairy, non-mortal spirit burdened with 

flesh, 
Forever, life-long. 



A SONG OF THE MOON 17 
by Claude McKay 

The moonlight breaks upon the city's domes, 
And falls along cemented steel and stone, 
Upon the grayness of a million homes, 
Lugubrious in unchanging monotone. 

Upon the clothes behind the tenement, 
That hang like ghosts suspended from the lines, 
Linking each flat to each indifferent, 
Incongruous and strange the moonlight shines. 

There is no magic from your presence here, 
Ho, moon, sad moon, tuck up your trailing robe, 
Whose silver seems antique and so severe 
Against the glow of one electric globe. 

Go spill your beauty on the laughing faces 

Of happy flowers that bloom a thousand hues, 

Waiting on tiptoe in the wilding spaces, 

To drink your wine mixed with sweet drafts of dews. 

"From A Song of the Moon, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1937, by the Guild's 
Committee for Federal Writers' Publications, Inc., and copyright, 1937, by Viking 
Press, Inc. 



THE CARIBBEAN 331 



HARLEM SHADOWS 18 
by Claude McKay 

I hear the halting footsteps of a lass 

In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall 

Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass 
To bend and barter at desire's call. 

Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet 

Go prowling through the night from street to street! 

Through the long night until the silver break 

Of day the little gray feet know no rest; 
Through the lone night until the last snow-flake 

Has dropped from heaven upon the earth's white breast, 
The dusky, half -clad girls of tired feet 
Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street* 

Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way 

Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace, 
Has pushed the timid little feet of clay, 

The sacred brown feet of my fallen race! 
Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet 
In Harlem wandering from street to street. 



AMERICA 19 

by Claude McKay 

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, 
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth, 
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess 
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth! 

M From Spring in New Hampshire, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1920. Grant 
Bichards, Ltd., publishers; from Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright, 
1922. Harcourt, Brace & Co., publishers. 

"From Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1922. Harcourt, Brace 
& Co., publishers. 



332 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, 

Giving me strength erect against her hate. 

Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood. 

Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state, 

I stand within her walls with not a shred 

Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer. 

Darkly I gaze into the days ahead, 

And see her might and granite wonders there, 

Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand, 

Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. 



WHITE HOUSES 20 
by Claude McKay 

Your door is shut against my tightened face, 

And I am sharp as steel with discontent; 

But I possess the courage and the grace 

To bear my anger proudly and unbent 

The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet, 

A chafing savage, down the decent street; 

And passion rends my vitals as I pass, 

Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass. 

Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour, 

Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw, 

And find in it the superhuman power 

To hold me to the letter of your law! 

Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate 

Against the potent poison of your hate. 

^From A Long Way from Home, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1937. Lee Fur- 
man, Inc., publishers. 



THE CARIBBEAN 333 



IF WE MUST DIE 21 
by Claude McKay 



If we must die, let it not be like hogs 

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, 

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, 

Making their mock at our accursed lot. 

If we must die, O let us nobly die, 

So that our precious blood may not be shed 

In vain; then even the monsters we defy 

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead! 

O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe! 

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave, 

And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! 

What though before us lies the open grave? 

Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack, 

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! 



BAPTISM 23 

by Claude McKay 

Into the furnace let me go alone; 

Stay you without in terror of the heat. 

I will go naked in for thus 'tis sweet 

Into the weird depths of the hottest zone. 

I will not quiver in the frailest bone, 

You will not note a flicker of defeat; 

My heart shall tremble not its fate to meet, 

My mouth give utterance to any moan. 

The yawning oven spits forth fiery spears; 

Red aspish tongues shout wordlessly my name. 

Desire destroys, consumes my mortal fears, 

Transforming me into a shape of flame. 

^From Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1922. Harcourt, Brace 
& Co., publishers. 



334 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



I will come out, back to your world of tears, 
A stronger soul within a finer frame. 



RUSSIAN CATHEDRAL 255 
by Claude McKay 



Bow down my soul in worship very low 

And in the holy silences be lost. 

Bow down before the marble man of woe. 

Bow down before the singing angel host. 

What jewelled glory fills my spirit's eye! 

What golden grandeur moves the depths of me! 

The soaring arches lift me up on high 

Taking my breath with their rare symmetry. 

Bow down my soul and let the wondrous light 
Of beauty bathe thee from her lofty throne, 
Bow down before the wonder of man's might. 
Bow down in worship, humble and alone; 
Bow lowly down before the sacred sight 
Of man's divinity alive in stone. 



FLAME-HEART 24 
by Claude McKay 

So much have I forgotten in ten years, 
So much in ten brief years! I have forgot 
What time the purple apples come to juice, 
And what month brings the shy forget-me-not. 
I have forgot the special, startling season 
Of the pimento's flowering and fruiting; 

^By permission of Mrs. Hope McKay Virtue. 

'"From Spring in New Hampshire, by Claude McKay, copyright, 1920. Grant 
Richards, Ltd., publishers; from Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay, copyright, 
1922. Harcourt, Brace & Co., publishers. 



THE CARIBBEAN 335 



What time of year the ground doves brown the fields 

And fill the noonday with their curious fluting. 

I have forgotten much, but still remember 

The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December. 

I still recall the honey-fever grass, 

But cannot recollect the high days when 

We rooted them out of the ping-wing path 

To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen. 

I often try to think in what sweet month 

The languid painted ladies used to dapple 

The yellow by-road mazing from the main, 

Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple. 

I have forgottenstrange but quite remember 

The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December. 

What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year 

We cheated school to have our fling at tops? 

What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy 

Feasting upon blackberries in the copse? 

Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days, 

Even the sacred moments when we played, 

All innocent of passion, uncorrupt, 

At noon and evening in the flame-heart's shade. 

We were so happy, happy, I remember, 

Beneath the poinsettia's red in warm December. 



NATURE 25 

by H. D. Carberry 

We have neither Summer nor Winter 
Neither Autumn nor Spring. 

We have instead the days 

When the gold sun shines on the lush green canefields 

Magnificently. 

^By permission of author; originally published in the Jamaican weekly, Public 
Opinion. 



336 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

The days when the rain beats like bullets on the roofs 
And there is no sound but the swish of water in the gullies 
And trees struggling in the high Jamaica winds. 

Also there are the days when the leaves fade from off guango trees 
And the reaped canefields lie bare and fallow to the sun. 

But best of all there are the days when the mango and the logwood 
blossom 

When the bushes are full of the sound of bees and the scent of honey, 
When the tall grass sways and shivers to the slightest breath of air, 

When the buttercups have paved the earth with yellow stars 
And beauty comes suddenly and the rains have gone. 



I SHALL REMEMBER 26 
by H. D, Carberry 

And in strange lands 

Where the fog presses down 

And even the street lamps are faint and misty, 

I shall remember 

The beauty of our nights, 

With stars so near 

That one could almost stretch and touch them, 

Stars winking and flashing 

Magnificently in a sky of velvet blue. 

I shall remember 

Walking down long avenues of trees, 

The black asphalt flecked with pale moonlight 

Pouring through the acacia leaves 

And the soft laughter of girls 

Leaning back, cool and inviting 

Against the trunks of flaming poincianne trees. 

^By permission of author; originally published in the Jamaican weekly. Public 
Opinion. 



THE CARIBBEAN 337 



And in the long day when rain falls sullenly 

And no sun shines 

And all the earth lies in a weary stupor 

I shall remember 

The splendour of our sun 

The brightness of our days. 

And how the rain poured down 

Upon a passionate thirsty earth, 

Swiftly, unrelenting with immeasurable power, 

Then vanished suddenly in a peal of childlike laughter 

And all the earth was green and light once more. 

I shall remember 

The warmth of our island seas, 

The sparkling whiteness of the breaking waves 

And the blue haze on our hills and mountains 

With their noisy streams cascading down 

Sheer cliffs in clouds of incandescent spray 

And deafening sound. 

And in strange cities 

Among unaccustomed people 

Who move palefaced with tired staring eyes 

I shall remember 

The warmth and gaiety of my people, 

The polyglot colour and variety of their faces, 

The happy fusion of our myriad races 

In the common love that unites and binds us to this land. 

And I shall yearn for the sight 
Of faces black and bronzed, 
People with dark sparkling eyes 
With ready tongue 
And laughter loud and unashamed. 



338 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



RETURN 27 

by H. D. Carberry 



In the narrow street 

Of filthy kerosene box shacks 

He stands. 

There are dark sullen clouds above 
One star and the dim street lamp- 
Scars in his hands 

And in his eyes a deep pity 

And a great love 

For the earth that is man's. 



BRITISH GUIANA 



Passages from 
OVER GUIANA, CLOUDS 28 
by A. J. Seymour 

Over Guiana, clouds. 

Little curled feathers on the back of the sky. 
White, chicken-downy on the soft sweet blue- 
In slow reluctant patterns for the world to see. 

, ^y permission of author; originally published in the Jamaican weekly, Public 
Opinion. 



permission of author; originally published in Over Guiana, Clouds, by A. T. 
Seymour. Published in British Guiana, 1944. 



THE CARIBBEAN 339 



Then frisky lambs that gambol and bowl along 
Shepherded by the brave Trade Wind. 

And glittering in the sun come great grave battleships 
Ploughing an even keel across the sky. 

In their own time, their bowels full of rain 

The angry clouds that rage with lightning 

Emitting sullen bulldog growls 

And then they spirit themselves away in mist and rain. 

Over Guiana, clouds. 

And they go rushing on across the country 

Staining the land with shadow as they pass. 

Closer than raiment to the naked skin, that shadow, 

Bringing a pause of sun, over and across 

Black noiseless rivers running out to sea, 

Fields, pieced and plotted, and ankle-deep in rice 

Or waving their multitudinous hair of cane. 

It scales the sides of mountains 

Lifting effortlessly to their summits, 

And fleets across savannahs, in its race, 

But there are times that shadow falters 

And hesitates upon a lake 

To fix that eye of water in a stare, 

Or use its burnished shield to search the sun, 

Or yet as maids do, 

To let the cloud compose her hurried beauty. 

And then upon its way to Venezuela 

Across vast stretches where trees huddle close 

And throw liana arms around their neighbours* 

Over Guiana, clouds. 

Forest night full of drums 

Death-throbbing drums 

For shining-breasted invaders of the shores. 



340 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Immemorial feuds shake hands 

And Indians come, 

Death's harvests swinging in their quivers. 

A cinema of rapid figures 
Thrown by wood-torches on the trees, 
Impassive faces with passion forcing through, 
Then the hard treks, and the long full canoes 
Rustling down the river-night. 

A horror of nights for Spaniards 
Keen arrows biting the throat above the steel 
The Indians flitting like actors in the wings 
The swamps, the heavy marching, the malaria. 

A trail of burnt villages and tortured men and treacheries. 

Wave after wave, the white-faced warriors 
Then weary of war, 
The Indians talk of trade. 



Indians knew the bird calls in the woods 

Before Columbus sailed 

The swallow songs 

Arrows of longing for the northern Summer days- 

The clamorous-winging wild ducks and the choughs 

The merry kiskadees and the pirate hawks 

The cries of little frightened doves, 

The brilliant and unmusical macaws. 

And they can tell the single hours to sunset 

By the birds cheeping, cheeping overhead. 

This wildwood and untroubled knowledge still 

Cradles the dying tribes 

For death has laid his hand upon the race. 

They know the wisdom of all herbs and weeds 

Which one to eat for sickness, which to shun 

And which to crush into an oil that pulls 

The cramping pains from out the marrow bones. 



THE CARIBBEAN 341 



They hear the river as it courses down 
And they can tell the rising of the tide 
From river- water lapping, lapping softly 
Slapping against the wooden landing-stage. 

The impassivity of silent trees becomes their own 
And they will watch the wheeling of white birds 
For company. 

But still they have their dances and at nights, 
When the drums trouble the dark with rhythm 
The violin takes a voice and patterns the air 
And then the Indians find their tribal memories 
Of victories and war and dim old journeys 
That brought them from beyond the Bering Strait. 



Raleigh comes to Guiana 

The wind had dropped, the giant hand 
Of night was shrouding up the land 
From where the thick couridas stand 

On the Guiana shore. 
And when the ships their anchors weighed 
Men went below, but one man stayed 

The distant jungle's roar. 
These musings fed on his far stare 
"I have been bold the King to dare, 
And will my expedition fare 

As falsely as of yore? 

These secret forests left behind 
Will I in that star-peopled south find 
The image stamped upon my mind, 

The city built in gold?" 
Where golden streets threw back the light, 
And roofs gleamed dully through the night 
But like an auburn head blazed bright 

When earth to morning rolled 



342 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



But deep within the mountains' breast 
The city lay; there was no rest 
Until he and his men had pressed 

And won a conqueror's way 
Through jungles where death stung and leapt 
Or in the tree-black midnight crept 
And claimed each tenth man as he slept 

And therefore could not pray. 

And to Sir Walter came the thought 
Perhaps the destiny he sought 
Would never shine, be gold. 
Perhaps this kindly fitful breeze 
He'd no more feel, nor see these seas, 
Perhaps his men would feed the trees 

Changed to a rotting mould. 
He pulled his cloak around his knees 

Because the night was cold. 

Slaves 

Humming in the twilight by the shanty door 

Oh Lord Jesus. 

Slaves 

Pouring out heart-music till it run no more 

Oh Lord Jesus. 

Slaves born in hot wet forestlands 

Tend the young cane-shoots and they give 

Brute power to the signal of the lash 

It curls and hisses through the air 

And lifts upon the black, broad backs 

Roped wales in hideous sculpture 

"Oh Lord Jesus." 

Some slaves are whipped 
For looking at the Master's grown-up daughters 
Picking their way across the compound, 
And other slaves for trying to run away. 
"Oh Lord Jesus." 



THE CARIBBEAN 343 

Some few found kindly-hearted owners 
And they were used like human beings 
But those were rare, Lord Jesus. 

Before, it was the shining yellow metal 

And now, the dark sweet crystal owned the land 

And if the chattel and the cattle died 

There always would be more to take their place. 

Till, in its deep sleep 

Europe's conscience turned 

And strenuous voices 

Broke chains and set the people free. 

"Oh Lord Jesus." 

But there were other chains and earth was not yet heaven 
And other races came to share the work 
And halve the pay. 

So with a stride down to the modern times and 
Random villages dawning between the plantations 
The sea pounding away to break the dams. 

And the railway pencils a line to the Berbice River 
Villages broaden shoulders and, sugar booming, 
Schools spring up suddenly to dot the coast. 

Men get eager for the yellow metal, shooting 

Down rapids for diamonds and quick wealth, returning 

Bloated and drunk to paint the villages red. 

Plantations thicken, spread, and tney web together, 
The angry sea batters the concrete defences 
Scooping a grave for them to bury themselves. 

Bustle and industry on the coasts but inland 
Few echoes shake the forests from their silences 
And nothing wakes their strong cathedral calm. 



344 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Their tops like plumes, the years grow old with forests 
And sleep upon the broad, short-shrubbed savannahs 
Patient and free from suffering like the stones. 

The races fade into a brown-stained people 
And the Guiana Spirit arises, stretching 
As a young giant begins to open his eyes 

And sees his country with its waiting promise 
Fair and unraped, and lifts his head to the heavens 

Over Guiana, clouds. 

Over Guiana clouds still lift their beauty 

And pace the sheer glad firmament by day 

They seem to halt, lay anchor when the night 

Distains the heavens and pours thick darkness in 

Its bowl, but on their pilgrimage they go 

And weave themselves strange pagan arabesques 

Or subtle unimaginable shapes 

Before they pass on to another land. 

High symbols, that behind the brow of history 

Dim objects brood and huge hands shape events 

From here, a little actuated dust 

And there, the blind collisions of the stars. 

Over Guiana, clouds. 



THE CARIBBEAN 345 



BRITISH HONDURAS 



THERE IS A MYSTIC SPLENDOR 
by Raymond Barrow 

There is a mystic splendor that one feels 
Walking this shore in the half-light of dawn. 
Placing one's footprints on the sands where keels 
Of ancient vessels must have beached and drawn. 

For there are tales that speak of glorious days 
When martial shouting rang within our Bay, 
And cannons thundered, and black battle haze 
Clouded this sickle isle with dark affray. 

Those were the times when privateers fled 
The predatory Brethren of the Coast; 
Pirates and buccaneers all these are dead, 
And all their lordly sway seems but a ghost. 

But even now the surfs loud thunder brings 
Sounds strangely clear like battle cries of old; 
And palm trees murmur of deep-sunken things, 
Of buried treasure-chests . . . and Morgan's gold. 



346 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



BARBADOS 



NOCTURNE 

by H A. Vaughan 



The wind is blowing from the hill, 
The sky is robed in purest sheen, 
The crickets' music, sweetly shrill, 
Conies from -the cane-brake and the green. 

The pond is quivering with delight, 
The pear tree nods. The jasmine fair 
And gracious lady-of-the-night 
With perfume load the dewy air. 

The village sleeps. Only beyond 
The brake two lovers linger still. 
The moon with silver clothes the pond. 
Silent and silver is the hill. 



THE OLD CONVICT 
by H. A. Vaughan 



Look at me. I am Ishmael, 

Ham's heir, the spit and spawn of Cain, 
The outcast with the twisted brain, 

Lord of Cats Castle, fit for Hell. 

I got no chance. The social odds 

Were dead against me when they sent 
Me up The Hill because I went 

For some forgotten prank to Dodds. 



THE CARIBBEAN 347' 



And so because they made me wince, 
And stretched me on the legal rack, 
I took an oath I would hit back, 

And have been hitting ever since. 

Maybe it is a foolish game 

Judged by the record. Who likes jail? 

But then I've fought them tooth and nail, 
And surely that's no cause for shame. 

Reform, you say? Reform indeed! 

Let's all reform. They must not quit 
The Golden Rule, and I from it 

Will not stray once. That is our need. 



IN MEMORIAM 

by Frank A. Collymore 



And so, when the time came, 

And you kissed them all and went, 

All your bills paid and your affairs wound up, 

To the lonely waiting ward, 

Though they thought you'd be afraid 

And tried to smile as they fussed around you, 

You could afford to smile back; 

For you were not afraid: 

You knew you were going to die. 

You'd known this all along, hadn't you? 

You'd always been afraid of the little things 

The toothache, the crowded theatre, the fire alarm; 

But when it came to this 

You could afford to smile back at them; 

For this was no trivial matter, 

This was the end; and now 

There was no cause for fear: 

You had worked out the answer. 



348 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

And so, when they came to see you 

And told you you'd soon be better . . . 

You were looking much better . . . 

You must get better . . . 

There were so many important things to live for 

You could only smile. 

What else could you do? 

There might be important things to live for, 

But death was just round the comer, 

And death was more important just then. 

Only it was no good trying to explain. 



TRINIDAD 



ROOTS 

by Harold Telemaque 



Who danced Saturday mornings 
Between immortelle roots 
And plays about his palate 
The mellowness of cocoa beans, 
Who felt the hint of the cool river, 
In his blood, 

The hint of the cool river, 
Chill and sweet. 

Who followed curved shores 

Between two seasons, 

Who took stones in his hands, 

Stones white as milk, 

Examining the Island in his hands; 

And shells, 

Shells as pink as frogs' eyes 

From the sea. 



THE CARIBBEAN 349 

Who saw the young corn sprout 

With April rain 

Who measured the young meaning 

By looking at the moon 

And walked roads a footpath's width, 

And calling, 

Cooed with the mountain doves 

Come morning time. 

Who breathed mango odour 

From his polished cheek, 

Who followed the cus-cus weeders 

In their rich performance, 

Who heard the bamboo flute wailing, 

Fluting, wailing, 

And watched the poui golden 

Listening. 

Who with the climbing sinews 

Climbed the palm 

To where the wind plays most 

And saw a chasmed pilgrimage 

Making agreement for his clean return, 

Whose heaviness 

Was heaviness of dreams, 

From drowsy gifts. 



ADINA 

by Harold Telemaque 



They hunt chameleon worlds with cameras. 
Their guides avoid the virtue of our valleys, 
They have not seen Adina's velvet figure 
Swimming uncovered in our rivers' bubbles 



350 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



They have not seen the bamboo's slow manoeuvre, 
The light refracting round her shapely ankles: 
They have not seen Adina's dancing beauty 
Blazing effulgent in the Caribbean. 

They stalk with telescopes the larger precincts 
Their view ascends skyscrapers' hazy regions, 
They have not seen the silver sun on green leaves, 
Adina's basket starred with fruit and flowers, 
The bird sung matinee, the dancing palm-trees, 
Beside her rhythmic swinging arms 
Storms do not strike 

They have not seen Adina in the breezes 
Blazing effulgent in the Caribbean. 



HAITI 

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH 



CHOUCOUNE 5 * 
by Oswald Durand 

When I think of it all I am so sad, 

In chains since that day my two feet fve had! 

Choucoune she is a marabout, 
Her two eyes shine like candles too, 
Her breasts stick straight out to view. . . . 
Oh! if only Choucoune had been true! 

We stood talking a long time there 

Till the little wood-birds were all happy in air! 

^From Poets of Haiti, translated by Edna Worthley Underwood; copyright, 1934. 



THE CARIBBEAN 351 



I'd like to forget if I only could for it makes me sad, 
In chains since that day my two feet I've had! 

The little teeth of Choucoune as milk are white, 
And her mouth is the color of our caimite, 
She's not a fat woman but plump and sweet, 
The oldtime days are not these that we meet, 
The little wood-birds every word they heard, 
If they think of it now they must grieve and be sad, 
In chains since that day my two feet I've had! 

To the house of her mother we had to go, 
An honest old woman and good you know. 
She looked me over from shoes to hat, 
Said I'm satisfied, so that's all of that! 

We drank nut-chocolate just as we should. . . . 
Is it all settled now, Little Birds in the Wood? 
But I'd like to forget it all I'm so sad, 
In chains since that day my two feet I've had! 

The furniture's ready; fine bed-bateau, 
Rattan chair, table, and a dodine, 
Mattress together with porte-manteau, 
Table-spread, napkins, and shades mousselines, 
And we had only fifteen days to go ... 
Little Birds of the Wood, hear, hear, for you know, 
And you understand just why I'm so sad, 
In chains since that day my two feet IVe had! 

A young white fellow, he happened our way, 
Short red beard, pretty, blond face you see, 
Smooth hair too and a watch on display, 
He is the cause of what happened to me! 

That Choucoune's a beauty he soon can tell. 

He speaks French . . . Choucoune she loves him 

well. . . . 

I'd like to forget it, it makes me so sad, 
She left me, since then in chains my two feet IVe had! 



352 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

But the saddest is this 
And surprise you it will 
Despite things amiss 
Choucoune I love still. 

Soon a baby mulatto there will be found, 
Little Birds, Little Birds, look, see she's grown round. 
Shut your mouths! Keep still . . . because I'm so sad, 
In chains since that day both Pierre's feet he's had! 

E. W. U. 



THE BLACK MAN'S SON 30 
by Oswald Durand 

As Lise however my mother was white, 
Her eyes were blue where sleeping tears gleamed, 

Whenever she blushed or in fear or delight, 
Pomegranates burst into bloom it seemed. 

Her hair was gold too! In wind and the light 
It covered her forehead where pale griefs dreamed. 

My father was blacker than I. Yet deemed 
Sacred their union the Church and right. 

Behold, strange contrast, on her white breast 

A child as golden and brown as the maize. 
Ardent too as the sun in our land always. 

I, orphan, loved Lise at youth's intensest, 
But her face grew pale at such words from me, 

The Black Man's son held a terror you see. 

E. W. U. 

^From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



THE CARIBBEAN 353 



IF 31 

by Oswald Durcmd 



If ever I'd known Italy 

Or Florence where men grief forget, 
Where Raphael painted grandly, 

Or Venice where the sails shine yet 
And gaily they can sing a song, 

As soon as evening came along 
I would call to some one dear: 

Come, dream in my gondola here 
While these rare mansions slip along!, 

But 'tis only our sad mountains I know 

Where bend and sway the banana trees, 
Our skies, horizons without bound, 

And forests sweet and springtime breeze. 
At dusk when winds strut with such pride, 

Gay curling fields of rice are found, 
Marianne I call unto my side: 

Come to the Savane let us go, 
To love where blossoms the mango! 

E. W. U. 



FAREWELL 32 

by Isaac Toussaint-L'Ouverture 

Shores of my native land 

What tears I have shed for you 
When the winds with cruel command 

Called the hour of my adieu! 
Borne by the ship, swift, light, 

Far from love, from the joys I knew, 

^From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



354 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



The little thatched-roof vanished from sight 
Of the one love my heart knew. 

Strange the stars, all this other world, 
Strange the cities, the people I view, 

This longing which my soul suffers 
'Mid sailors where fires blew, 

And the sea this supreme barrier, 
All tell my grief again too 

How far, how far the little thatched-roof 

Of the one love my heart knew! 

I have braved both storm and war, 
Strange lands with their stranger ways! 

But nothing has dimmed your face for me 
Whether safe in port or at sea's mercy, 

I kept on saying of you: 

When shall I see the little thatched-roof 

Of the one love my soul knew! 

E. W. U. 



TO MADAME LA DUCHESSE DE BAUFFREMONT 83 
by Louis Morpeau 

Your park's like a Gothic Cathedral to me, 
Your chestnut trees tower like antique marbles grandly. 

The pallid hues under your opaline sky 
Delight me. Yet my homesick heart must sob and still cry. 

Now the twilight is bleeding and the wind sweeps the grain, 

All my great sun-land at my throat leaps again- 
Chestnut trees of Brienne, flower covered and old, 
Ah! Mangoes of Haitirich green arid so gold! 

E. W. U. 

^From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



THE CARIBBEAN 355 



BELLE-DE-NUIT*' 3 * 
by Ignace Nau 



Oh My Beauty of Night! close, close quick your robe 

For the moon has grown pale on the edge of the dusk, 
Waste not the rich sweetness of your censer so pure, 

The morning blooms soon and Dawn's eyes are wide! 

* 

The light of the sun is too bitter for you. 

Hide, hide humble flower, where the branches are thick 
? Til night comes along with its breezes, its balm, 

And the moon's timid crescent comes back to the sky. 

Your rare shaded purple again you can wear, 
Again among lovers you'll see round you glow 

The winged night-moths with be-diamonded eyes. 
What kisses, what sighs Oh! sweet, sweet fiancee! 

When disputing your heart in the fury of love 

They'll swarm tonight bee-likelove's manifold charms! 

E. W. U. 



AMITIE AMOUREUSE 35 
by Luc Grimard 

Look, look! Day dies and the evening has come! 

The dusk once again has surprised us here; 
The light grew pale, fainted, too weary alas, 

Leaving memory only as its perfume. 

The dusk once again has surprised us here, 
In front of the sea, the wall, the old tree, 

Soon will vanish horizons for us less clear, 
Since something within is released, set free. 

* Botanical name, Mirabilis Jalapa, the West Indian Four O'clock. 
^From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



356 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



The last breeze of summer shivers over the palm 
Whose lower branches are yellowing some, 

Late hours of September are like this and calm! 
Look! day dies now and the night has come. 

E. W. U. 



ELEGIES 36 

by Philippe Thoby-Marcelin 



II 



Tai une alliance 

auec des pierres ueinees bleu, 

et vous melaissez, egalement, assis, 

dans lamitie de mes genoux. 



SAINT-LEGER LEGER 



Outside wind heavy and wet 
Plucks at the mango trees. 

They, keep on dropping the stars 
Without any wishing at all. 

Night beckons back a cloud 
To fling around one shoulder 

Where I fain would stretch me out 
For rest that's sweet. 



Faiths washed away 
As with sponge. 

w From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



in 



IV 



THE CARIBBEAN 357 

Yet children still hunt the sun 
With pebbles flung, and with cries. 

Mosquitoes circling warn me 
Night will be long, long, 

If there were not anything left to love 
Or hate . . . 



'Twas Summer I recall- 
Summer, wet, heavy, unchaste, 
With floating vapors, and hot. 

A shadow in agony, 

That crawls toward a far fountain. 

Trees which keep grieving aloud 
The echoes of pain grown great . , 

A woman I'd longed to love 
Waited for me till the night. 



The season of love 
Will it come back? 

The season of love 
When you loved me not? 

My heart was rotting and sad 
Like a leaf of Autumn that's dead. 

My song lifted pure and high 
The perfume of my land 



358 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Where wasps buzz and sting 
Around mangoes ripe, rotting 



The morning's moist and fog-veiled, 
The hills pasture like the cows 
Belly-deep in grass bathing. 

Sea Swallows last night's dusk knew, 
Then burned in the late sunset, 
Leap alive from their ashes anew . . 

Today is the day that I love you 
My Beauty ... my sweet regret. 

E. W. U. 



POET OF FAREWELL 37 
by Christian Werleigh 

Partir cest motif ir un pen 

TOSTI 

My verses dream-rich and tender you've read, 
All my songs, old now and forgotten as well, 

Like a black palm-trunk whose top's severed, 
And you have called me the poet of farewell. 

The poet of farewell! It is true, as you tell, 
I have always sung of what fades arid then dies, 

My poor heart's been merely a kind of chapel 
Where Grief came to dry her beautiful eyes. 

Trom Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



THE CARIBBEAN 359 

I have often known in that instant's brief gleam 
Just what broke in the heart at the fateful word, 

Eternities seen with their hope, with their dream, 
Expand in one sob sent to God who heard. 

E. W. U. 



A NEGRO SINGS 38 
by Normil Sylvain 

Oh! Little Girl! 

Do not try to love me. 

Beware black abysses that sleep in my eyes! 

In the deeps of my eyes dwells laughter that slays, 

Go away! 

Little Girl, Little Girl! 
Do not pause, 
Not even to hear me sing 
In my songs are too many sobs. 

From the wind and the rain I stole my songs. 
They gave words. 

The rain ... it knows tales and tales . . . 
And wind knows grief of the world, 
That traveller everywhere. 

Songs I sing for self. 

They cradle thought and my grief. 

I am drunk on solitude, 

Like my ancestors the slaves. 

My despairing soul sings despair. 
Keep away from this black midnight! 
The labyrinth's ways are not yours. 

Trom Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



360 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Roads of silence I know, 

Mystery's paths, 

Griefs secret places, and dim. 

Little Girl, you are wrongl 
You could not love me, 
I am sad, 
Love lives on joy. 

I am sadder than tears, 

Than good-byes, 

Than sadness. 

I know Golgotha, Gethsemane, 

Little Girl, Little Girl! . . . 
Let me go, 
Let me carry my own sorrow. 

I am sad tonight 
The vast sadness 
Of a martyred race. 

E. W. U. 



THE MANGOES 39 
by Duracine Vaval 

To intoxicate you with the wine of things, 

Might I not offer you a pale bouquet where roses fail? 

A poem pleasing in its even rhythms? 

I send you then a basket full of mangoes. 

Desire clings to their yellow tawny flesh. 
The savour of the soil lies deep within them. 
Their dusky tang of camphor or of muscatel 
Filters scent-borne into the very soul. 



Anthology of Contemporary Latin-American Poetry, edited by Dudley 
Fitts. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. 



THE CARIBBEAN 341 

And these mangoes, honey-sweet, that decked the hedge. 
They are fragrant with black shadow, with the sun, 
Fragrant with a true and love-provoking breath. 

In the orchard that bleeds in its vermilion cloak 
The golden mango surpasses in prime sweetness 
Our royal fruits swollen with juice and light! 

D. D. W. 

THE PEASANT DECLARES HIS LOVE 40 
by Emile Roumer 

HIGH-YELLOW of my heart, with breasts like tangerines, 

you taste better to me than eggplant stuffed with crab, 

you are the tripe in my pepper-pot, 

the dumpling in my peas, my tea of aromatic herbs. 

You are the corned beef whose customhouse is my heart, 

my mush with syrup that trickles down the throat. 

You are a steaming dish, mushroom cooked with rice, 

crisp potato fries, and little fish fried brown . . . 

My hankering for love follows you wherever you go. 

Your bum is a gorgeous basket brimming with fruits and meat. 

J. P. B. 

LA MAMBO DANS LE HOUNFORT 41 
by Charles F. Pressoir 

Above a rough altar, coarse cement all, 

Beside wine bottles a candle glows 
At the feet of Christ, a red flame shows, 

Shadows dance on the mortar wall. 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

"From An Anthology of Contemporary Latin-American Poetry, edited by Dudley 
Fitts. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. 

41 From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934, 



362 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



On the whitewashed wall in bright colored paint, 
Obscure vague symbols and cabalistic. 

Some simple old male forms hieratic 
Which edge the engravings of a saint. 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

One peasant plays the part of Legba, 

And like our country women here, 
Comes from Ouedo the black one dear, 

In a short jacket, sweet Ayida. 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

Next Agoue, the Barkentine, 
Lord of the Tempests, Master of Seas 

Who cuts off heads, Ogou precedes, 
A murderous general, menacing, mean. 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

In a corner they roll, they roar, the big drums 

Covered with hairy wild-ass hide, 
Monstrous black devils and side by side, 

Mama, Papa, then Cata comes. 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

Now the old witch waves her tiatia, 
Strange, strange canticles kneeling sings, 

In 'midst of the mystical hymning rings 
Over and over the name Maria. 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

But when Mambo ceases behold voilti 
Something that moves on the ground is spread 

Uplifting two shining points fiery red, 
This is the serpent of Damballa. 



THE CARIBBEAN 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

On the altar of this dim temple fall 

The flames of the candles, they tremble and shake. 
While mysterious and horrible shadows make 

The old hag's dances along the wall. 

Tonight the wind cries over the Mornes . . . 

But what can be done with a goat without horns? 

E. W. U. 



COUNTRY GRAVEYARD 42 
by Charles F. Pressoir 

"C'est le lent chemin de GuinSe" 

JACQUES ROUMATN 

In the high, high grass of Guinee 

The little houses hide, 
Gray stone, moss-grown and thickly, 

Like dun hair that floats beside. 

Sometimes the ground curves slightly 
In a long, vague, pebbly wave 

Which the weeds veil but lightly- 
Some poor wretch's fresh-made grave. 

At foot of the Cross suspended, 

Lest the dead should know grangou, 
A tiny grain, some fish, foods blended 

At feet of Christ you find voodoo. 

^From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



364 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



So they follow the two faiths ever 
The white, the bone-bred deeply. 

Do the dead go then forever, 
To Heaven or to Guinee? 

E. W. U. 



WHEN THE TOM-TOM BEATS . . .* 8 
by Jacques Roumain 

Your heart trembles in the shadows, like a face 

reflected in troubled water 
The old mirage rises from the pit of the night 
You sense the sweet sorcery of the past: 
A river carries you far away from the banks, 
Carries you toward the ancestral landscape. 
Listen to those voices singing the sadness of love 
And in the mountain, hear that tom-tom 

panting like the breast of a young black girl 

Your soul is this image in the whispering water where 

your fathers bent their dark faces 
Its hidden movements blend you with the waves 
And the white that made you a mulatto is this bit 
of foam cast up, like spit, upon the shore. 

L. H. 



LANGSTON HUGHES 44 
by Jacques Roumain 

At Lagos you knew sad faced girls. 

Silver circled their ankles. 

They offered themselves to you naked as the night 

Gold-circled by the moon. 

^From An Anthology of Contemporary Latin-American Poetry, edited by Dudley 
Fitts. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. 

**From Poets of Haiti, translated from the original by Edna Worthley Under- 
wood; copyright, 1934. 



THE CARIBBEAN 365 

You saw France without uttering a worn, shop-made phrase; 

Here toe are, Lafayette! 
The Seine seemed less lovely than the Congo. 

Venice. You sought the shade of Desdemona. 

Her name was Paola. 

You said: Sweet, sweet Love! 

And sometimes 

Babe! Baby! 

Then she wept and asked for twenty lire. 

Like a Baedeker your nomad heart wandered 

From Harlem to Dakar. 

The Sea sounded on in your songs sweet, rhythmic, 

wild. . . . 
And its bitter tears 
Of white foam blossom-born. 

Now here in this cabaret as the dawn draws near you 

murmur . . . 

Play the blues again for me! 
O! for me again play the blues! 

Are you dreaming tonight, perhaps, of the palm trees, of 
Black Men there who paddled you down the dusks? 

E. W. U 



GUINEA 45 

by Jacques Roumain 

It's the long road to Guinea 
Death takes you down 
Here are the boughs, the trees, the forest 
Listen to the sound of the wind in its long hair 
of eternal night 

"From An Anthology of Contemporary Latin-American Poetry, edited by Dudley 
Fitts. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. 



THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

It's the long road to Guinea 

Where your fathers await you without impatience 
Along the way, they talk 
They wait 

This is the hour when the streams rattle 
like beads of bone 

It's the long road to Guinea 

No bright welcome will be made for you 

In the dark land of dark men: 

Under a smoky sky pierced by the cry of birds 

Around the eye of the river 

the eyelashes of the trees open on decaying light 
There, there awaits you beside the water a quiet village, 
And the hut of your fathers, and the hard ancestral stone 

where your head will rest at last. 

L. H. 



NEDJE 46 

by Roussan Camille 

Not quite sixteen, 

you said you came from Danakil, 

you whom vicious white men 

crammed with anisette and whiskey 

in that smoke-filled cafe 

in Casablanca. 

Through the narrow window 

the dusk was dripping blood 

on the burnous of the Spahis 

leaning against the bar 

and tracing above the desert outside 

epic visions 

of clashes, pursuits, 

defeats and glory. 

Reprinted by permission of author and Mercer Cook, translator. First appeared 
in The American Anthology, Port-au-Prince, 1944. 



THE CARIBBEAN 367 

One bloody evening 

which was but a minute 

in the eternal bloody night of Africa, 

so sad a night 

your dance became imbued with it 

and made me sick at heart 

like your song, 

like your glance 

blending with my soul. 

Your eyes were full of countries 

so many countries 

that when I looked at you 

I saw anew 

in their wild light 

the dark suburbs of London, 

the brothels of Tripoli, 

Montmartre, Harlem, 

every pseudo paradise 

where Negroes dance and sing 

for others. 

The nearby call 

of your mutilated Danakil, 

the call of black fraternal hands 

infused into your dance of love 

a virginal purity 

and echoed in your heart 

great familiar songs. 

Your frail arms 

through the smoke 

yearned to embrace 

centuries of pride, 

kilometers of landscape, 

while your steps 

on the waxed mosaic 

sought the highlands and the lowlands 

of your childhood. 



3<S8 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



The window opened on the anxious East. 

One hundred times your heart returned there. 

One hundred times the red rose brandished 

in your delicate finger-tips 

adorned the mirage 

of the gates of your village. 

Your sorrow and nostalgia 

were known to all the debauches 

sailors on manoeuvres 

soldiers on leave 

the idling tourists 

crushing your brown breasts 

with the vast boredom of travellers. 

The missionaries and the fearful 

sometimes tried to console you. 

' But you alone know 
little girl from Danakil 
lost in the smoke-filled cafes of Casablanca, 
that your heart 
will find its happiness when 
in the new dawns 
that bathe your native desert 
you return to dance 
for your living heroes, 
your heroes yet unborn. 

Then each step, 

each gesture, 

each glance, 

each song 

will show the sun 

your land belongs to youl 

M. C. 



THE CARIBBEAN 369 



HARLEM 47 

by Jean Brierre 

I have seen you suffer in the midst of winters, 
and your shadow erect amidst the street lamps 
has told me often of its hunger at the doors 

of the eating houses. 

I have seen you bleed at times on the sidewalks, 
and I have not heard your agony make complaint. 
I have seen you adorned in the springtime, 

bedecked in laughter and joy, 

dressed in sunshine and silk, 

singing and dancing, 

singing strange songs, 
the heavy songs of sirens, 

of voyaging, 

of calls and of silence on forgotten seas, 

of bitter songs, 

ending with outbursts of laughter 

like mighty cymbals. 

I have seen you dancing in whirlwinds 

like the frenzied, 

celebrating some god hidden in the 

depths of you. 

Where, O Harlem, do you sleep? 
Perhaps you pluck the leaves of the last star 
in your fragile cup 
and find again at the portals of the dawn 

the trouble, 

the toil, 

the weariness, 

the poverty, 

the hour which sounds like a knell 

and your heart, weary and alone 

on the road, hostile and black. 

J. F. M. 

* 7 Translated by John F, Matheus, from Ebony Rhythm, edited by Beatrice M. 
Murphy. The Exposition Press, New York. 



370 THE FOETRY OF THE NEGRO 



MARTINIQUE 

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH 



Passages from: 

MEMORANDUM ON MY MARTINIQUE 
by Aime Cesaire 

Neither the teacher of the class nor the priest with his catechism can 
get a word out of this sleepy Negro lad, although they drum energeti- 
cally on his shorn skull, for his voice is engulfed in the swamps of hun- 
ger (say-a-single-word-just-one-and-the-Queen-of-Castile-will-be-for- 
gotten, say-a-single-word-just-one, look-at-the-boy-who-doesn't-know-a- 
single-of -the-ten-laws-of-the-Lord ) 

For his voice sinks in the swamps of hunger, 

And there is really nothing to be drawn from this good-for-nothing, 

nothing but the hunger which can no longer climb to the rigging of 
his voice, 
a heavy and slack hunger, 

a hunger buried in the depths of the Hunger of this starveling hill. 



Also mine: a little cell in the Jura mountains, a little cell, the snow 
adds white bars, the snow a white jailer guarding my prison cell 

What is mine 

A single man imprisoned in white 

A single man defying the white cries of white death 

(TOUSSAINT, TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE) 

A single man who fascinates the white hawk of white death 

A man alone in the sterile sea of white sand 

An old Negro facing the waters of the sky 

Death describes a white circle above this man 
Death gently stars his head 
Death breathes in the ripe sugar-cane of his arms 
Death gallops in the prison like a white horse 



THE CARIBBEAN 371 



Death shines in the shadow like cats' eyes 

Death hiccups like water under the Keys 

Death is a hurt bird 

Death wanes 

Death vacillates 

Death is an easily offended patyura 

Death expires in a white swamp of silence. 

L. A. & I. G. 



POEMS 

by Leon Damas 



FRENCH GUIANA 

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH 



REALLY I KNOW 

nothing sadder 

or more hateful 

or more frightening 

or more lugubrious in the world 

than to hear love at the end of the day 

repeating itself like a low mass 

once upon a time 

a woman happened to pass 

whose arms were full of roses 

TRITE WITHOUT DOUBT 
but before giving over 
entirely beautiful and black 
to the whorl-flowered grass 
on the path which leads 
to the mountains 
where a bamboo flute 



372 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



cries in the night 

the girl with the calabash 

of indifference on her head 

should pr^y three times each 

to Lord Jesus 

the Virgin 

Saint Joseph 

SHE LEFT HERSELF ONE EVENING 

to prowl around 

my misery 

like a mad dog 

like a naked dog 

like a doggish dog 

quite mad 

quite naked 

quite doggishly 

dog 

thus simply 
the drama began 

L. H. 



CUBA 

TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH 



OPINIONS OF THE NEW CHINESE STUDENT 
by Regino Pedroso 

Until yesterday I was polite and peaceful . , . 

Last year I drank the yellow-leaved Yunnan tea 

in fine cups' of porcelain, 

and deciphered the sacred texts of Lao-Tze, 

of Mang-tze, 

and the wisest of the wise, Kung-fu-Tseu. 



THE CARIBBEAN 373 

Deep in the shade of the pagodas 

my life ran on, harmonious and serene, 

white as the lilies in the pools, 

gentle as a poem by Li Tai Po, 

watching the loop-the-loop 

of white storks at eve 

against the screen of an alabaster sky. 

But I have been awakened by the echo of foreign voices 

booming from the mouths of mechanical instruments: 

dragons setting ablaze with howls of grapeshot 

to the horror of my brothers 

murdered in the night 

my bamboo houses 

and my ancient pagodas. 

And now, from the airplane of my new conscience, 
I watch over the green plains of Europe, 
and her magnificent cities 
blossoming in stone and iron. 

Before my eyes the western world is naked. 

With the long pipe of the centuries 

in my pale hands, 

I am no longer enticed by the opium of barbarism. 

Today I march toward the progress of the people, 

training my fingers on the trigger of a Mauser. 

Over the flame of today 

impatiently I cook the drug of tomorrow. 

I would breathe deep of the new era 

in my great pipe of jade. 

A strange restlessness 

has taken all sleep from my slanting eyes. 

To gain a deeper view of the horizon 

I leap up on the old wall of the past , . . 

Until yesterday I was polite and peaceful . . . 

L. H. 



374 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



CANE 

by Nicolas Guillen 



Negro 

in the cane fields. 

White man 

above the cane fields. 

Earth 

beneath the cane fields. 

Blood 

that flows from us. 

L. H. 



SIGHTSEERS IN A COURTYARD 
by Nicolas Guillen 

Tourists in the courtyard 
of an Havana tenement. 
Cantaliso sings a song 
not made for dancing. 

Rather than your fine hotels, 
stop in the courtyard of this tenement. 
Here you'll see plenty of local color 
you'll never find in your hotels. 
Gentlemen, allow me to present to you 

Juan Concinero! 

He owns one table and he owns one chair, 
he owns one chair and he owns one table, 

and one oil stove. 



The oil stove won't burn 
and hasn't kissed a pot for ages. 
But see how jolly and gay, 
how; well-fed and happy 

Juan Concinero 

is today! 

JUAN CONCINERO INTERRUPTS: 

With what one Yankee 
drinks down 
in steins of beer, 
anybody could live 
a whole year! 

THE SONG CONTINUES: 

Folks, this is Louis, the candy-maker. 
And this is Carlos from the Canaries. 
And that Negro there is called Pedro Martinez. 
And that other, Norberto Soto. 
And that dark girl over there, Petra Sarda. 
All of them live in the same room- 
No doubt because that's not so dear. 
What people! What high-class people live here! 

ALL IN CHORUS: 

With what one tourist 
spends on brandy in a day, 
a month's room rent 
anybody could pay, 

THE SONG GOES ON: 

That woman coughing over there, 
folks, by name of Juana: 



376 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



tuberculosis in an advanced stage. 

Nobody looked after her 

so, like a dunce, 

she went all day 

without eating. A funny idea 

with so much food to waste! 



ALL IN CHORUS: 

What one Yankee 
drinks up with ease 
MightVe cured 
Juana's disease. 



THE SONG ENDS: 

Oh, but tourists, stay here, 
and have a good time! 
This is your chance! 
Tourists, stay here! 
Have a good time! 
This is your chance! 
Til sing you songs 
Nobody can dance! 

L. H. 



DEAD SOLDIER 
by Nicolas Guillen 



What buUet killed him? 

Nobody knows. 
Where was he born? 

In Jovellanos, they say. 



THE CARIBBEAN 377 

Why did they pick him up? 

He was lying dead in the road 

And some other soldiers saw him. 
What bullet killed him? 

His sweetheart comes and kisses him. 
His mother comes and cries. 
When the Captain gets there 
All he says is: 
Bury him! 

Rat-ta-tat-tat! 
THERE GOES THE DEAD SOLDIER. 

Rat-ta-tat-tat! 
THEY PICKED HIM UP IN THE ROAD. 

Rat-ta-tat-tat! 
A SOLDIER AIN'T NOTHING. 

Rat-ta-tat-tat! 
THERE'RE PLENTY OF SOLDIERS. 

L. H. 



WAKE FOR PAPA MONTERO 
by Nicolas Guillen 



You burned the dawn 

with the fire of your guitar: 

juice of the cane 

in the gourd of your dark warm flesh 

under a cold white moon. 



Music poured from you 
round and mulatto as a plum. 



378 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

Steady drinker 

with the throat of tin, 

boat cut loose in a sea of rum, 

horseman of the wild party, 

what will you do with the night 

now that you can no longer drink it, 

and what vein 

will give you back the blood 

youVe lost down the black drain 

of a knife wound? 

Tonight they got you, 
Papa Montero! 

They waited for you at your flat, 
but they brought you home dead. 
It was a good fight, 
but they brought you home dead. 
They say he was your pal, 
but they brought you home dead. 
Nobody could find the knife, 
but they brought you home dead. 

Now Baldemero's done for, 
a devil, a dog, and a dancer! 

Only two candles 

burn away the shadows. 

For your two-bit death 

two candles are too many. 

But the red shirt 

that once lit up your songs 

and the brownskin laughter of your music 

and your gleaming straightened hair, 

makes more light for you now 

than any candles. 

Tonight they got you, 
Papa Montero! 



THE CARIBBEAN 379 

Today the moon rose 
in the courtyard of my house. 
It fell blade-wise to earth 
and stuck there. 

Some kids picked it up 
to wash its face, 
so I bought it tonight 
to be your pillow. 

L. H. 



TWO WEEKS 

by Nicolas Guillen 



She was a little girl who smelled 

of nice cologne and castile soap. 

I loved her with a simple passion 

that some love poems and a look had given hope. 

I remember when I told her that I loved her 
a blush made red each pallid little cheek. 
She put her stubby hands upon a chair back, 
looked at her shoes, and did not speak. 

That useless little girl could tell me 

nothing new, so I began to see 

her love as quite too young for lovers' ways. 

Facts are, scarcely did we smile or pine. 
We spoke five times and looked nine. 
It lasted only fourteen days. 

L. H. 



380 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



PROPOSITION 
by Nicolas Guillen 



Tonight 

when the moon comes out 

I shall change it 

into money. 

But I'd be sorry 

if people knew about it, 

for the moon 

is an old family treasure. 

L. H. 



BARREN STONE 
by Nicolas Guillen 



You will come back to me 
when the road has given you all its secrets, 
whispered its dusty voice in your ear- 
when, like a barren stone, 
your true self is worn away, 
your mouth is bitter 
and the hours, 
with folded arms, 
have nothing more to say. 

I cannot talk to you then 

for you will be more unresponsive than ever. 

Your presence will pass through mine 

like a rolling stone 

tumbling into the depths of myself, 

falling into my past, 

I shall see you sinking. 

I shall hear the hollow sound. 



THE CARIBBEAN 381 

I shall wait for the last echo, 

the ultimate vibration 

in the depths, 

far down 

a barren stone, 

your true self 

worn away. 

L. EL 



FEDERICO 

by Nicolas Guillen 



An excerpt concerning Federico Garcia Lorca, 
from "ESPANA, Poema en Cuatro Angustias 
y Una Esperanza" 

I knock at the door of a romance. 
"Is Federico not here?" 
A parrot answers: 
"No, he has gone." 

I knock at the door of crystal. 
"Is Federico not here?" 
There comes a hand to answer: 
"He is at the river." 

I knock at the door of a gypsy. 
"Is Federico not here?" 
No one answers, no one speaks . . . 
"Federico! Federico!" 

Dark and empty is the house, 
black moss on the walls, 
rim of a bucketless well 
and garden of green lizards. 

On the spongy earth 
snails that move, 



382 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



and the red wind of July 
sways among the ruins, 

Federicol Federico! 
Where does the gypsy die? 
Where do his eyes grow cold? 
Where is he, that he doesn't come? 
Federico! Federico! 



A SONG 

He left on Sunday at nine, 

he left on Sunday, at night, 

He left on Sunday, and never came back! 

In his hand was an iris, 

in his eyes a fever, 

the iris became blood, 

the blood became death. 



ANOTHER SONG 

Where are you, Federico? 

Where are you, that you dont cornel 

Federico! Federico! 

Where are you, that you dont come! 

Where are you, that you dont come! 



MOMENT WITH GARCIA LORCA 

Federico dreamed of spikenard and wax 
and olive and carnation and cold moon. 
Federico, his Granada, and the springtime lax. 

He slept alone in solitude's abode, 
stretched out beneath ambiguous lemon trees 
as songs passed down the lonely road. 



THE CARIBBEAN 383 

Vast, the night with blazing starlight gleams. 
In its transparent train it pulls along 
over paths and cart-roads shining beams. 

Passing slowly by, a gypsy crowd, 
with iinprotesting hands tied fast, 
called "Federico!" suddenly aloud. 

What voice is that of all their bloodless veins! 
What softness in their steps, their steps! 
And what benumbed ardors cloak their pains! 

Darkened by night, and olive-green they took 
the harsh, the hard invertebrated road 
Where senses used to walk barefoot. 

Federico arose batAed in shining light, 

Federico, his Granada, and the springtime lax, 

And with his moon, carnation, spikenard, wax 

over the perfumed mountain followed them that night. 

B. F. a 



FAREWELL TO MY MOTHER 48 
by Placido 

(Written in the Chapel 

of the Hospital de Santa Cristina 

on the night before his execution) 

If the unfortunate fate engulfing me, 
The ending of my history of grief, 
The closing of my span of years so brief, 
Mother, should wake a single pang in thee, 

translated by James Weldon Johnson from the Spanish of Placido; from Sain* 
Peter Relates an Incident, copyright, 1935, by James Weldon Johnson. Reprinted 
by permission of The Viking Press, Inc. 



384 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 



Weep not. No saddening thought to me devote; 
I calmly go to a death that is glory-filled; 
My lyre before it is forever stilled 
Breathes out to thee its last and dying note. 

A note scarce more than a burden-easing sigh 
Tender and sacred, innocent, sincere- 
Spontaneous and instinctive as the cry 
I gave at birth And now the hour is here 
O God, thy mantle of mercy o'er my sins! 
Mother, farewell! The pilgrimage begins. 

J. W. J. 



AFRICA 



NATIVITY 49 

by Aquah Laluah 

Within a native hut, ere stirred the dawn, 

Unto the Pure one was an Infant born; 

Wrapped in blue lappah that His mother dyed, 

Laid on His father's home-tanned deerskin hide, 

The Babe still slept, by all things glorified. 

Spirits of black bards burst their bonds and sang 

Teace upon earth' until the heavens rang. 

All the black babies who from earth had fled 

Peeped through the clouds then gathered round His head. 

Telling of things a baby needs to do, 

When first he opes his eyes on wonders new; 

Telling Him that to sleep was sweetest rest, 

All comfort came from His black mother's breast. 

"Reprinted by permission of The Atlantic Monthly. 



THE CARIBBEAN 385 

Their gift was Love, caught from the springing sod, 
Whilst tears and .laughter were the gifts of God. 
Then all the Wise Men of the past stood forth, 
Filling the air, East, West, and South and North; 
And told Him of the joy that wisdom brings 
To mortals in their earthly wanderings. 
The children of the past shook down each bough, 
Wreathed frangipani blossoms for His brow; 
They put pink lilies in His mother's hand, 
And heaped for both the first fruits of the land. 
His father cut some palm fronds, that the air 
Be coaxed to zephyrs while He rested there. 
Birds trilled their hallelujahs; all the dew 
Trembled with laughter, till the Babe laughed too. 
All the black women brought their love so wise, 
And kissed their motherhood into His mother's eyes. 



THE SERVING GIRL 50 
by Aquah Laluah 



The calabash wherein she served my food, 

Was smooth and polished as sandalwood: 

Fish, as white as the foam of the sea, 

Peppered, and golden-fried for me. 

She brought palm wine that carelessly slips 

From the sleeping palm tree's honeyed lips. 

But who can guess, or even surmise 

The countless things she served with her eyes? 



THE SOULS OF BLACK AND WHITE 51 
by Aquah Laluah 

The souls of black and white were made 
By the selfsame God of the selfsame shade, 

"^Reprinted by permission of The Atlantic Monthly. 



386 THE POETRY OF THE NEGRO 

God made both pure, and He left one white; 

God laughed o'er the other, and wrapped it in night. 

Said He, Tve a flower, and none can unfold it; 
IVe a breath of great mystery, nothing can hold it. 
Spirit so illusive the wind cannot sway it, 
A force of such might even death cannot slay it." 

But so that He might conceal its glow 
He wrapped it in darkness, that men might not know. 
Oh, the wonderful souls of both black and white 
Were made by one God, of one sod, on one night. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 



LEWIS ALEXANDER (Washington, D,C., 1900- ) was educated in the public 
schools in Washington and at Howard University. He studied further at the 
University of Pennsylvania. 

SIDNEY ALEXANDER (Brooklyn, New York, 1912- ) 

HERVEY ALLEN (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1889- ) 

RUSSELL ATKINS (Cleveland, Ohio, 1926- ) attended public schools and kter 
studied at the Cleveland School of Art and at the Cleveknd Institute of Music. 
His poems have appeared in View, Experiment, and in several newspapers. 

RAYMOND BARROW (British Honduras) (Belize, 1920- ), the son of a district 
judge, was educated at St. John's College in Belize. His poems have appeared 
in magazines in the British West Indies. From 1942 to 1945 he was editor of 
the Civil Service Chronicle in Honduras. 

STEPHEN VINCENT BENET (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1898-1943) 

WILLIAM ROSE BENET (Fort Hamilton, New York Harbor, N.Y., 1886- ) 

GWENDOLYN B. BENNETT (Giddings, Texas, 1902- ) received her elementary 
education in the schools of Washington, D.C., and was graduated in 1921 
from the Girls' High School of Brooklyn, New York, She then studied at Co- 
lumbia University and at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. An early interest in the 
fine arts led to a year's study in Paris at the Academie Julian and the Ecole de 
Pantheon and to an instructorship in Art at Howard University, She served 
for a time as a member of the editorial staff of Opportunity. 

ELIZABETH BISHOP (Worcester, Massachusetts, 1911- ) 

WILLIAM BLAKE (England) (London, 1757-1827) 

MAXWELL BODENHE1M (Natchez, Mississippi, 1892- ) 

ARNA BONTEMPS (Alexandria, Louisiana, 1902- ) was educated in elementary 
schools in Los Angeles, at San Fernando Academy, at Pacific Union College in 
Angwin, California, and at the University of Chicago. He has held teaching 
posts in New York City, in Alabama, and in Chicago. In 1943 he became chief 
librarian of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. His poetry first appeared 
in The Crisis magazine in 1924. In 1926 his "Golgotha Is a Mountain" won 
the Alexander Pushkin Award for Poetry offered by Opportunity. The follow- 
ing year his "The Return" was given the same award. His "Nocturne at 
Bethesda ? " won a first prize in the poetry contest sponsored by The Crisis in 
1927. Since then his writing has been mainly in prose, as represented by the 
novels God Sends Sunday, 1931, Black Thunder, 1936, and Drums at Dusk, 
1939; by biographical and historical books like They Seek a City (with Jack 
Conroy, 1945), We Have Tomorrow, 1945, and Story of the Negro, 1948; and 
the following stories for young people: Popo and Fifina (with Langston 
Hughes, 1932 }, 'You Cant Pet a Possum, 1934, Sad-Faced Boy, 1937, and 
The Fast Sooner Hound and Slappy Hooper (with Jack Conroy, 1942 and 
1946). St. Louis Woman, a musical play based on his novel God Sends Sunday, 
was produced at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City in 1946. Bontemps 
is the editor of Golden Slippers, an anthology of Negro poetry for young 
people. 

KAY BOYLE (St. Paul, Minnesota, 1903- ) 



390 BIOGRAPHICAL MOTES 

WILLIAM STANLEY BRAITHWAITE (Boston, Massachusetts, 1878- ) was born of 

West Indian parents. His career as a poet began in 1904, with the publication 
of Lyrics of Life and Love. A second volume, The House of Falling Leaves, 
followed in 1908, and in 1948 Coward-McCann, Inc., issued his Selected 
Poems. Braithwaite is best known, perhaps, for his Anthologies of Magazine 
Verse > begun in 1913 and continued until 1929. Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon 
River poems, Vachel Lindsay's chants, Carl Sandburg's free verse, and the 
early work of many other important American poets were included in the 
Braithwaite anthologies before they appeared in other books. Other anthologies 
by Braithwaite include The Book of Elizabethan Verse, 1906, The Book of 
Georgian Verse, 1908, and The Book of Restoration Verse, 1909. For several 
years he worked on the editorial staff of the Boston Transcript, and in 1918 he 
was awarded the Spingarn medal for high achievement by an American Negro. 
In the same year honorary degrees were conferred on him by Atlanta Uni- 
versity and by Talledega College. Later he became a Professor of Creative 
Literature at Atlanta University, a position he held until his retirement in 1945. 
Since then he has been engaged in a biographical and literary study of the 
Brontes. 

BENJAMIN GRIFFITH BRAWLEY (Columbia, South Carolina, 1882-1939) was educated 
at Morehouse College, the University of Chicago, and at Harvard. He taught 
English at Morehouse and at Shaw and Howard universities. His books were 
mainly works of literary and social history, such as A Short History of the 
American Negro, 1918, A Short History of English Drama, 1921, A New 
Survey of English Literature, 1925, The Negro Genius, 1937, and Negro 
Builders and Heroes, 1937, But he also wrote poems and short stories which 
had not been collected at the time of his death. 

JEAN F. BRIERRE (Haiti) (Jeremie, 1909- ) was educated by the Freres de 
rinstruction Chretienne and at the Lyc<e. Then he went to France to study 
political science and later to Columbia University in New York City. He is 
the secretary general of the Union of Haitian Writers and Artists and the 
director of. cultural affairs in the Department of Foreign Relations. His 
UAdieu & la Marseillaise, three verse tableaux on the life of Toussaint 
L'Ouverture, was produced in 1939 and again in 1947. His publications in- 
clude Le Petit Soldat, 1933, Nous Garderons le Dieu, poems in memory of 
Jacques Roumain, 1945, and Black Soul, a poem, 1947. He is the editor of 
Province, an anthology in three volumes. 

GWENDOLYN BROOKS (Topeka, Kansas, 1917- ) has lived in Chicago nearly all 
her life. Public schools, Englewood High, and Wilson Junior College, from 
which she was graduated in June 1936, contributed to her education. Her 
poems, which first appeared in magazines, achieved book publication in 1945 
in A Street in Bronzebille. Miss Brooks's early poems won prizes in the Mid- 
western Writer Conference competition and at Northwestern University, but 
her published volume quickly gained more important recognition. Mademoi- 
selk selected her as one of the ten women of the year in 1945. The following 
year she was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award. In 
1946 she won a Guggenheim Fellowship which was renewed the following 
year. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 391 

JONATHAN HENDERSON BROOKS (near Lexington, Mississippi, 1904-45) was born 
on a farm. When his parents separated during his childhood, he remained 
with his mother, and together they worked the fields on "half shares" until he 
was fourteen. Then began the struggle for an education. Intervals in school 
were broken frequently by periods of farm work and teaching, but Brooks 
eventually made his way through high school at Jefferson City, Missouri, and 
then went to college at Tougaloo, Mississippi. Later he did graduate work at 
Columbia University. At the time of his death he was working in the post 
office at Corinth, Mississippi, where he had made his home since 1935. A 
posthumous book, The Resurrection and Other Poems, achieved publication 
as co-winner in the Eighteenth Book Publication Contest of Kaleidograph, 
Dallas, Texas, 1948. 

STERLING A. BROWN (Washington, D.C., 1901- ) was educated in the Wash- 
ington schools and at Williams College and Harvard University. He started 
his teaching career at Virginia Seminary. Short periods at Fisk University and 
at Lincoln in Missouri followed. Then began his long and distinguished asso- 
ciation with Howard University, where he holds a professorship in English. 
At intervals he has been visiting professor of English at Vassar College and 
at the University of Minnesota and a visiting lecturer at New York's New 
School. He served as editor on Negro affairs for the Federal Writers' Project 
and was a staff member of the Carnegie-Myrdal Study of the Negro. In 1937 
he was given a Guggenheim Fellowship. His published books include Southern 
Road, 1932, a volume of poetry; The Negro in American Fiction, 1938; and 
Negro Poetry and Drama, 1938. He was an editor of the Negro Caravan, 1941. 

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (England) (Carlton Hall, Durham, 1806-61) 

WITTER BYNNER (Brooklyn, New York, 1881- ) 

ROUSSAN CAMILLE (Haiti) (Jacmel, 1915- ) began his education in his home 
town and continued it at the Tippenhauer Institute and at the Lycee National 
Alexandre Petion in Port-au-Prince. In 1935 he joined the staff of the Haiti 
Journal. Two years later he was appointed first secretary of the Haitian Lega- 
tion in Paris. In 1940 he returned to Port-au-Prince, where he was appointed 
to an important post in the Department of National Education. Then followed 
periods as editor in chief of the Haiti Journal and an appointment to the post 
of vice-consul in the Haitian Consulate in New York, He has traveled widely 
and represented his country frequently as a cultural envoy. A collection of his 
poems, Assaut a la Nuit, was published in Port-au-Prince in 1940. 

GEORGE CAMPBELL (Jamaica) (Panama, 1917- ) attended local schools before 
entering St. George's College. He worked as a newspaper reporter on the 
Daily Gleaner of Kingston and later migrated to New York City. 

DAVID WADSWORTH CANNON, JR. (New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1910-38) wats 
educated in public schools, at Hillsdale College in Michigan, from which he 
graduated in 1931, and at the University of Michigan, where he was awarded a 
master's degree the following year. He was then appointed to the faculty of 
Virginia State College at Petersburg. In 1937 he was granted a Rosenwald 
Fellowship for further study at Columbia University. 

H. D, CARBERRY (Jamaica, B.W.I.) (Montreal, Canada, 1922- ) was educated 
in Jamaica at high schools in Spanish Town and Mandeville, at Jamaica Col- 



392 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

lege in St. Andrew, and at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University (Eng- 
land), where he received a degree in law. 

CATHERINE CATER (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1917- ) earned her first college 
degree at Talladega in Alabama and later joined the staff of the Fisk University 
library. From the University of Michigan she received a professional degree 
in Library Science and a doctorate in Language and Literature. She has held 
a Rosenwald Fellowship and is now connected with Olivet College in Michigan 
as a librarian-instructor. 

AIME CESAIRE (Martinique) (Basse-Pointe, 1913- ) attended the Ecole Normale 
Superieure de Paris and graduated as one of the youngest agre'ge's of France. 
Returning to his native island, he became a professor of literature at the 
Scholcher College of Martinique. He has served as representative to two 
national legislative assemblies of France, as mayor of Fort-de-France, and as 
Consul General. He is at present a Representative from Martinique in the 
French Assembly. His published works include Cahier (Tun Retour au Pays 
Natal Paris, 1939, (published in translation in the United States in 1947), 
L'appel au magicien, 1944, Les Amies Miraculeuses, 1946, Soliel Coup Conge, 
1948. 

MARCUS B. CHRISTIAN (Houma, Louisiana, 1900- ) was mainly self-educated. 
He served as supervisor of the Dillard University Negro History Unit of the 
Federal Writers' Project and was later given a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship 
to complete a history begun on the project. He was appointed an assistant in 
the Dillard Library. His poems and articles have appeared in anthologies and 
periodicals. 

MASSILLON COICOU (Haiti) (Port-au-Prince, 1865-1908) was educated by the 
Freres de llnstruction Chretienne and at the Lycee Petion. He had an active 
political Career, serving at one time as a member of the cabinet of President 
Thiresias S. Sam and as Haitian minister to Paris. Prior to his death before a 
firing squad in 1908, he also held a chair of philosophy in Port-au-Prince. He 
was the founder of the revue UOeuvre and the author of two collections of 
poetry: Les Poesies Nationales, 1891, and Impression et Passion, 1902. He 
wrote several works for the theater, among them Dessalines Liberte, performed 
in Paris in 1904 in celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of Haitian 
independence. 

HELEN JOHNSON COLLINS (Hampton, Virginia, 1918- ) is the daughter of 
schoolteacher parents. After several preliminary moves, her family reached 
Cleveland, where she attended Central High. Her undergraduate college 
work was done at Oberlin College (on a scholarship) and at Flora Stone 
Mather College, from which she received an A.B. in 1938. At Western Re- 
serve University she studied library science, in which she earned a B.L.S. in 
1944. She is an assistant in the Quincy branch of the Cleveland Public Library. 

LESLIE MORGAN COLLINS (Alexandria, Louisiana, 1914- ) is indebted to the 
Sisters of St. James at Alexandria for his elementary education. He went on 
to Straight College and Dillard University in New Orleans, however, gradu-: 
ating from the latter in 1936. Then followed graduate work at Fisk, teaching 
posts in several Southern schools, and more graduate study leading to a 
doctor's degree from Western Reserve University in 1945. He became a 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 393 

member of the English faculty at Fisk in the fall of 1945. His poems have 
appeared in Poet Lore and other little magazines. 

FRANK A. COLLYMORE (Barbados, B.W.I.) (St. Michael, 1893- ) was educated 
at the Combemere School, at which he has been teaching since 1910. Recently 
he went to England on a British Council scholarship. His verses have been 
collected in Thirty Poems, 1944, and Beneath the Casuarinas, 1945. He is 
co-editor of the local magazine Bim, in which his short stories and poems 
frequently appear with his own illustrations. 

ALICE CORBIN (St. Louis, Missouri, 1881- ) 

JAMES DAVID CORROTHERS (Cass County, Michigan, 1869-1919) was a neglected 
orphan. Later he worked in sawmills and lumber camps in Michigan, on the 
Great Lakes as a sailor, and elsewhere as a coachman, janitor, and barbershop 
bootblack. Then friends encouraged his efforts to get an education, and he 
became a minister and continued in that profession the rest of his life. His 
poems, first published in the Century magazine, attracted wide attention, partly 
for their resemblance to those of Paul Laurence Dunbar's. His verses were 
collected in 1907 in Selected Poems and later in The Dream and the Song, 
1914. 

JOSEPH SEAMON COTTER, JR. (Louisville, Kentucky, 1895-1919) was the precocious 
son of a well-known father. His health was frail from childhood, and he had 
to end his college work at Fisk University in his second year as a result of 
tuberculosis. A year before he died he published a small volume of poems 
called The Band of Gideon. 

JOSEPH SEAMON COTTER, SR. (Bardstown, Kentucky, 1861- ) was forced by 
circumstances to leave school when he was in the third grade, and he was 
twenty-two before he resumed his formal education. During the interval he 
worked as a ragpicker, tobacco stemmer, brickyard hand, whisky distiller, 
teamster, and prize fighter. When he finally completed his education, he be- 
came a schoolteacher in Louisville, Kentucky. 

HART CRANE ( Garrettsville, Ohio, 1899-1932) 

COUNTEE CULLEN (New York, N.Y., 1903-46) was educated in the public schools 
of New York City. His recognition as a poet began when he was still in high 
school. As a student at New York University he won the Witter Bynner Poetry 
Prize, open to all undergraduates in American colleges. He received a master's 
degree from Harvard in 1926. He later became a teacher in the public schools 
of New York City, the work in which he continued till his death. Color, 
Cullen's first volume of poetry, appeared in 1925, when the poet was only 
twenty-two years old. This book won him the Harmon Gold Award for 
literature as well as notable critical approval. It was followed in 1927 by 
The Ballad of the Brown Girl and Copper Sun. Then came The Black Christ, 
1929, written on a Guggenheim Fellowship; One Way to Heaven, 1932, a 
novel; The Medea and other Poems, 1935; The Lost Zoo, 1940; My Nine Lives 
and How I Lost Them, 1942; and On These I Stand, published posthumously 
in 1947. Cullen edited Caroling Dusk, 1927, an anthology of Negro American 
poetry, and collaborated with Arna Bontemps in the dramatization of St. Louis 
Woman from the latter's novel. 



394 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

WARING CUNEY (Washington, D.C., 1906- ) was educated in the public schools 
of Washington, at Howard University, at Lincoln (Pennsylvania), at the New 
England Conservatory o Music in Boston, and in Rome, where he studied 
singing. While he was still a student at Lincoln Cuney's poem "No Images" 
won a first prize in an Opportuniti poetry contest This was hi 1926. Since 
then his lyrics have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and some of them 
have been set to music and recorded. He served three and one half years in 
the Army as a technical sergeant in the South Pacific, receiving the Asiatic 
Pacific Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Battle Stars. 

WESLEY CURTR1GHT (Brunswick, Georgia, 1910- ) was educated in New York 
City and at Pacific Union College, Angwin, California. For a number of years 
he was employed by the New York State Civil Service. He now lives on a 
farm in Cass County, Michigan. 

PIERRE DALCOUR (New Orleans, Louisiana,) was the son of wealthy parents who 
sent him to France in the early 1800s to be educated. A member of the free 
colored group in Louisiana, he elected to spend much of his adult life abroad. 
He returned to New Orleans after completing his education, but by then he 
was unable to accept the injustices of racial discrimination. He returned to 
France, though not before he had written a number of poems, several of 
which were included in the anthology Les Genelles, compiled by Armand 
Lanusse in 1845. 

LEON DAMAS (French Guiana) was born about the turn of the century. In his youth 
he went to Paris where he became a protege* of Andre* Gide and a friend of 
the surrealist, Andre Breton. After World War I he returned to his native 
land and in 1917 was elected a deputy to the French National Assembly. 

FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS (Arkansas City, Kansas, 1905- ) attended school in 
Arkansas City until he was ready for Kansas State College. There he studied 
journalism, part of the time on a Sigma Delta Chi scholarship. During the 
summers he worked on farms and with street-construction gangs. In 1931 he 
went to Georgia to help start the Atlanta Daily World. He remained as editor 
of the World until 1934. The following year he became feature editor of the 
Associated Negro Press in Chicago, of which he later became executive editor. 
Meanwhile he has been a Rosenwald Fellow in Poetry, 1937, a lecturer on the 
History of Jazz Music at the Abraham Lincoln School in Chicago, and a mem- 
ber of the National Board of the Civil Rights Congress. Davis is the author of 
Black Mans Verse, 1935, I Am the American Negro, 1937, and of 47th 
Street, 1948. 

CLARISSA SCOTT DELANY (Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, 1901-27) was the daughter 
of Emmett J. Scott, the distinguished secretary of Booker T. Washington. After 
a childhood at Tuskegee she went to Bradford Academy in New England and 
then to Wellesley College. Three years of teaching in Dunbar High School 
in Washington, D.C., followed. She was married to Hubert Delany in 1926. 

H. BINGA DISMOND (Richmond, Virginia,' 1891- ) was educated at public 
schools, at Howard University Academy, and at the University of Chicago, 
where he became a celebrated track star. He entered Rush Medical College 
before World War I and later specialized in physical therapy. He is the 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 395 

director of this department in the Harlem Hospital in New York City. A book 
of his poems, published in 1943, is called We Who Would Die. 

OWEN DODSON (Brooklyn, New York, 1914- ) was educated at public schools 
and at Bates College. He took graduate studies leading to a Master of Fine 
Arts degree at Yale. Two of his plays, Divine Comedy and Garden of Time, 
were produced at Yale, and others have been performed by little-theater groups 
at various colleges. Talladega College commissioned him to write a play on 
the Amistad mutiny. He has taught drama at Spelman College in Atlanta, 
Georgia, and at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he is now a 
member of the faculty. His first published book, Powerful Long Ladder, 1946, 
was a collection of poems. He has contributed poetry and prose to a number 
of magazines and received a Rosenwald Fellowship for Creative Writing. 

WILLIAM EDWARD BURGHARDT DuBOIS (Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 1868- ) 
began his education in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He went to Fisk 
University and continued his studies at Harvard and the University of Berlin. 
Best known as a scholar and a spokesman for the dark peoples of Africa and 
the world, he has always been a poet at heart. The poetic prose of books like 
The Souls of Black Folk has already inspired generations of Negro artists and 
writers. His first published book, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, 
appeared in 1896. A long list of scholarly volumes has followed. Occasionally, 
however, in the course of his work as college professor, editor, and founder of 
The Crisis magazine, director of research and publicity for the National Asso- 
ciation for the Advancement of Colored People and champion of human 
rights, he has written poetry as such. His verses are scattered through periodi- 
cals and miscellanies. 

ALFRED DUCKETT (Brooklyn, New York, 1918- ) attended the Boys' High School 
in Brooklyn. He was a newspaperman for a while and worked on the Amster- 
dam News, the New York Age, and the Pittsburgh Courier. He was attached 
to Special Services overseas during World War II. His poems have appeared 
in Twice a Year, and a piece by him was included in This Is Our War. 

PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR (Dayton, Ohio, 1872-1906) was the son of former slaves, 
one of whom, the father, had escaped by way of the Underground Railroad. 
Young Dunbar attended the public schools of Dayton and graduated from high 
school in 1891. When he was unable to attend college, he went to work as an 
elevator operator. He was employed in this capacity in 1893 when his first 
book, Oak and Ivy, was privately printed. A second volume, Majors and 
Minors, followed in 1895. Neither of these attracted wide attention but they 
won enough approval to assure the success of his Lyrics of Lowly Life, which 
came out in 1896. This book soon gained for Dunbar a national reputation 
and enabled him to pursue a literary career. In spite of the declining health 
which resulted in his early death, Dunbar produced a large quantity of work. 
He wrote much prose, and his other books of verse include Lyrics of Love and 
Laughter, 1903, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow, 1905. His Complete Poems 
was issued in 1913. 

OSWALD DURAND (Haiti) (Cap Haitien, 1840-1906) was one of the best-loved 
poets of his country. A prose writer, dramatist, and editor as well as poet, he 
held important government offices and traveled abroad. He is remembered as 



396 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

"an ardent Nationalist" and as a "man of merry and tempestuous living, who, 
in his later days, bore resemblance to Dumas, pere, with his leonine head of 
unruly hair, gay flowered shirts, flowing ties." He worked best in the Creole 
idiom, and it was in this dialect that his widely popular "Choucoune," 1884, 
was written. 

JESSIE REDMOND FAUSET (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was educated in the public 
schools of Philadelphia and at Cornell University. She received an A.B. from 
Cornell in 1905 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Graduate study, leading 
to the M.A. degree, was taken at the University of Pennsylvania, and further 
work at the Alliance Frangaise, Paris, earned her a certificate. For several years 
she was literary editor of Th'e Crisis, but mainly her work has been teaching. 
Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She is also 
the author of four novels: There Is Confusion, 1924, Plum Bun, 1929, The 
Chinaberry Tree, 1931, Comedy: American Style, 1933. 

JOHN GOULD FLETCHER (Little Rock, Arkansas, 1886- ) 

LUC GRIMARD (Haiti) (Cap Haitien, 1886- ) received an elementary education 
from the Sisters of St. Joseph de Cluny in Cap Haitien before going on to the 
secondary TEcole Moderne de Saindoux and then to the Lyce"e National 
Philippe-Guerrier. He has since had a notable career as a professor and then 
as a director of this institution. His work has also included the practice of law, 
a professorship in law in Cap Haitien, service as Consul General of Haiti in 
Havre, France ( 1922-26), and a period as curator of the National Museum in 
Port-au-Prince. His poems have been collected in Sur ma Flute de Bambous 
and Ritournelles, both published in Paris, 1927. He collaborated in the prepa- 
ration of the volumes Quelques Poemes, Quelques Poetes, Port-au-Prince, 1934, 
and La Corbeille, Port-au-Prince, 1942, and a book of short stories, Du Sable 
entre les Doigts, Port-au-Prince, 1941. 

ANGELINA WELD GRIMKE (Boston, Massachusetts, 1880- ) was educated at 
various northern schools, including the Girls* Latin School and the Boston 
Normal School of Gymnastics. She became a teacher in the Armstrong Manual 
Training School of Washington, D.C., in 1902. Beginning in 1916 she taught 
English for a number of years at Dunbar High School in the same city. Later 
she moved to New York City. Rachel, a three-act play by Miss Grimk6, was 
published^ 1921. 

NICOLAS GUILLEN (Cuba) (Camaguey, 1904- ) graduated from the Institute of 
Camaguey in 1920 and the following year entered University of Havana's 
School of Law. He soon dropped this course, however, for a career in journal- 
ism, politics, and poetry. His books of verse, which began appearing in 1930, 
soon won him a place among the foremost poets of Latin America. In 1947 El 
Son Entero, a collected edition of his poetical works, was issued by Pleamar 
of Buenos Aires. In 1948, Cuba Libre, a volume of his poems translated into 
English appeared in the United States. 

JUPITER HAMMON (Queens Village, Long Isknd, 1720P-1806?) was the slave of one 
Henry Lloyd. The dates of his birth and death are obscure, but the earliest 
reference to him is found in a letter dated May 19, 1730, when Hammon was 
perhaps a little more than ten years old. He probably did not die before 
1806. Hammon was an intelligent and privileged slave, respected by his 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 397 

master for his skill with tools and by his fellow slaves for his power as a 
preacher. His first published work, sometimes called the first literary effort by 
any Negro in the United States, was "An Evening Thought: Salvation by 
Christ, with Penitential Cries." It appeared as a broadside in 1760. His next 
known work, "A Poetical Address to Phillis Wheatley," appeared eighteen 
years later. His "An Essay on the Ten Virgins," of which no extant copy has 
been found, was printed in 1779. "A Winter Piece," including also "A Poem 
for Children with Thoughts on Death," "An Evening's Improvement/' and a 
rhymed dialogue entitled "The Kind Master and Dutiful Servant" appeared 
in 1782. Hammon's "An Address to Negroes in the State of New York," his 
most substantial literary work, was issued in 1787. It went into three editions. 

FRANCES E. W. HARPER (Baltimore, Maryland, 1825-1911) was educated in Balti- 
more and later moved to Ohio, where she taught for a while at Union 
Seminary in Columbus, but by 1853 she was in Little York, Pennsylvania,, 
working in the interest of the Underground Railroad. A year later, as a result 
of her growing reputation, Mrs. Harper was engaged by the Anti-Slavery 
Society of Maine as a lecturer.- After the Civil War she traveled extensively 
as a representative of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Her first 
book, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, was published in 1854. Another, 
Poems, followed in 1871, and a third, Sketches of Southern Life, in 1872. 

ROBERT HAYDEN (Detroit, Michigan, 1913- ) was educated in Michigan. He 
went to college at Wayne University in Detroit and then to the University 
of Michigan for graduate work. From 1944-46 he held a teaching assistantship 
in the department of English at Michigan. He left to accept a position on the 
faculty of Fisk University. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, scholastic honors 
society. The first collection of his poetry, Heartshape in the Dust, 1940, was 
published by the Falcon Press of Detroit. Hayden received Hopwood awards 
for poetry in 1938 and 1942. He was granted a Fellowship in Creative Writing 
by Special Services Committee of Ann Arbor in 1946. In 1947 he received a 
Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for Creative Writing. His poems have appeared 
in Poetry, Atlantic Monthly, Cross Section, 1945 and 1947, and other peri- 
odicals and anthologies. A brochure, The Lion and the Archer, 1948, presented 
a group of his poems with some by Myron O'Higgins. 

DONALD JEFFREY HAYES (Raleigh, North Carolina, 1904- ). Beyond high school 
Hayes's education was gained entirely through private study. His interest was 
music, and he studied singing and directing with distinguished teachers. As 
a member of singing choruses he appeared in several Broadway productions 
in the twenties and thirties. Many of his poems have appeared in such maga- 
zines as Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, and This Week. They have 
also been in anthologies. He is employed as a counselor for the mentally and 
physically handicapped with the New Jersey State Employment Service. 

DU BOSE HEYWARD (Charleston, South Carolina, 1885-1940) 

LESLIE P1NCKNEY HILL (Lynchburg, Virginia, 1880- ) was educated in the public 
schools of his home town and at Harvard University. He taught at Tuskegee 
Institute and later became the principal of the Cheyney Training School for 
Teachers in Pennsylvania. He published two volumes of poetry: The Wings of 
Oppression, 1922, and Toussaint L'OuvertureA Dramatic History, 1928. 



398 BrOGRAPWCAl NOTES 

CONSTANCE HOLLAR (Jamaica, B.W.L) (Port Royal, 1880-1945) spent most of her 
life on the island where she was born. After completing her education she 
traveled in Great Britain and returned to Kingston to conduct a private 
kindergarten school. A collection of her poems appeared in 1941 under the 
title Flaming June. Her last years were marked by frail health and retirement. 

JOHN WESLEY HOLLOWAY (Augusta, Georgia, 1865-1935) was the son of an ex- 
slave who had become by his own efforts one of the first Negro schoolteachers 
in Georgia. Holloway was educated at Clark in Atknta and at Fisk University, 
where he was a member of the famous Jubilee Singers. He became a teacher 
and then entered the ministry. 

LUCY ARIEL WILLIAMS HOLLOWAY (Mobile, Alabama, 1905- ) received her early 
education at the Emerson Institute of Mobile and in the high school depart- 
ment of Talladega College. She went to Fisk and then to Oberlin Conservatory 
to study music. She was for a while the director of music at the North Carolina 
College, Durham. Since 1945 she has been supervisor of music in the Negro 
public schools of Mobile. Her first recognition as a poet came in 1926 while 
she was still a senior at Fisk University. Her "Northboun' " was selected as one 
of the winning poems in the Opportunity contest that year. 

MOSES CARL HOLMAN (Minter City, Mississippi, 1919- ) was educated in the 
public schools of St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Lincoln University in 
Jefferson City, majoring in English. Following his graduation he taught school 
for a year and then went on to the University of Chicago, where he received 
an M.A. in 1944. At Chicago he won a Fiske Poetry Prize. A year later a 
Julius Rosenwald Fellowship was awarded to him for further study and 
creative writing. He later joined the English faculty at Hampton Institute in 
Virginia. 

FRANK HORNE (New York, N.Y., 1899- ) was educated in the public schools 
and at the College of the City of New York. His professional and graduate 
studies were continued at the Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology, at 
Columbia University, and at the University of Southern California. A member 
of his college's track team, Frank Home's first poems reflected his athletic 
interest and 'achievements. After college he became a Doctor of Optometry and 
practiced in Chicago and New York, but he returned to the academic field and 
taught at Fort Valley Normal and Industrial School before entering govern- 
mental service in Washington with the U.S. Housing Authority. His poems 
have been published in magazines and anthologies. The first of his writings 
to attract attention, perhaps, was the series called "Letters Found Near a 
Suicide," which won a Crisis poetry award in 1925. 

GEORGE MOSES MORTON (North Carolina, 1797-1883) was a slave of the Horton 
family of Northampton County, North Carolina. During most of his life 
he served one member or another of that family. At Chapel Hill he was 
permitted to hire himself out, and it was in this way that he gained em- 
ployment in the home of the president of the university. Here he learned to 
read and write. He also discovered a way to earn pocket change: by com- 
posing love poems for the students at the rate of twenty-five to fifty cents 
each. In 1829 a volume of his poems was published in Raleigh under the 
title The Hope of Liberty. Horton hoped that the sale of this work would 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 399 

earn enough money to enable him to purchase his freedom, but, like many 
another poet, he was disappointed. When the Northern troops occupied 
Raleigh in 1865, Horton was an old man, but he escaped to their lines and 
to freedom, and the same year his second work, Naked Genius, appeared. The 
remainder of his Me, one gathers, was spent in Philadelphia. 

LANGSTON HUGHES (Joplin, Missouri, 1902- ) attended the public schools of 
Lawrence, Kansas, but moved with his mother to Cleveland at the age of 
fourteen. There he attended Central High and graduated with the class of 
1920, which he served as class poet and editor of the yearbook. A year in 
Mexico followed, and Hughes returned to enter Columbia University in 1921. 
A break with his father ended this phase of his education, however, and he 
went to work at odd jobs around New York. Then followed two years of sea- 
faring, with voyages along the African coast and to Europe. During this period 
his poetry, which had already been appearing in The Crisis and other maga- 
zines, began to attract the attention which resulted in the publication of his 
first volume. He then entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and gradu- 
ated in 1929. He has pursued a literary career ever since. Meanwhile awards 
and honors accumulated. There was a first prize in the Opportunity poetry 
contest in 1925, and another in 1926 in the Witter Bynner undergraduate 
poetry competition. He won a Harmon Award in 1931 and later received 
Guggenheim and Rosenwald fellowships and a grant from the American 
Academy of Arts and Letters. His published works include Not Without 
Laughter, 1930, a novel; The Ways of White Folks, 1934, short stories; and 
The Big Sea, 1940, an autobiography; in addition to the following collections 
of poetry: The Weary Blues, 1926, The Dream Keeper, 1932, Shakespeare in 
Harlem, 1942, Fields of Wonder, 1947, and One Way Ticket, 1949. He has 
had broad experience as journalist, song lyricist, dramatist, and lecturer, as 
represented by a column called "Here to Yonder" in the Chicago Defender, 
the lyrics for the Broadway musical version of Elmer Rice's Street Scene and 
the libretto for the William Grant Still opera Troubled Island, the Broadway 
play Mulatto, and six coast-to-coast poetry-reading tours. 

DOROTHY VENA JOHNSON (Los Angeles, California) received her early education 
in a convent. She attended the University of California at Los Angeles and 
the University of Southern California, earning degrees from each. She is a 
junior high school teacher in Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared in 
periodicals and anthologies. 

FENTON JOHNSON (Chicago, Illinois, 1888- ) was educated in Chicago in the 
public schools and at the University of Chicago. At nineteen he produced 
original plays at the historically interesting Peldn Theatre of the same city. 
A Little Dreaming, his first volume of poetry, appeared in 1914, and in the two 
following years came Visions of the Dusk and Songs of the Soil. Tales of 
Darkest America, 1920, was a book of short stories. Johnson edited and pub- 
lished several small literary magazines, 

GEORGIA DOUGLAS JOHNSON (Atlanta, Georgia, 1886- ) was educated in the 
elementary schools of Atlanta, at Atlanta University, and at Oberlin Con- 
servatory in Ohio. She prepared herself for a career as a composer but soon 
felt that the road to this goal was obstructed. Instead, she became a school- 



400 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

teacher. When her husband was appointed Recorder of Deeds under President 
William Howard Taft, she moved to Washington, D.C. Later she herself was 
employed in government agencies in the capital. The hope of becoming a 
composer was replaced by an interest in poetry. The published volumes of her 
lyrics include The Heart of a Woman, 1918, Bronze, 1922, and An Autumn 
Love Cycle, 1928. 

HELENE JOHNSON (Boston, Massachusetts, 1907- ) was educated in public 
schools and at Boston University. In 1926 she went to New York to attend 
the extension division of Columbia University. She remained long enough to 
see her poems published in such magazines as Opportunity and Vanity Fair 
and reprinted in a number of anthologies. 

HERBERT CLARK JOHNSON (Mattoax, Amelia County, Virginia, 1911- ) was 
educated in Virginia and at the Cheyney Training School for Teachers in 
Pennsylvania. His poems have been published in magazines and collected in 
the volume Poems from Flat Creek, 1943. 

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON (Jacksonville, Florida, 1871-1938) received his early 
education in Jacksonville, and then attended Atlanta University. A subsequent 
career as public school principal, lawyer, diplomat, executive secretary of the 
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Professor of 
Creative Literature at Fisk University paralleled his growth and maturity as 
a poet and man of letters. In 1900, with his brother J. Rosamond Johnson, he 
wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a song that has become a kind of national 
anthem for the Negro people in the United States. His long list of published 
works include the following books of poetry: Fifty Years and Other Poems, 
1917, God's Trombones, 1927, St. Peter Relates an Incident of the Resurre& 
tion Day, 1930, and Book of American Negro Poetry, first issued in 1922. 
Johnson wrote the lyrics for several musical shows and put his name on a 
number of hit songs in his early writing days. At the time of his death in an 
automobile accident in 1938 he was regarded as one of the foremost Negro 
Americans of his generation. 

AQUAH LALUAH [Gladys May Casely Hayford] (African Gold Coast) (Axim, 1904- 

) is a Fanti by birth, but she attended college at Colwyn Bay in Wales. 

Returning to Africa after five years in England, she became a teacher in the 

Girls' Vocational School of Sierra Leone. Her poems, first published in the 

Atlantic Monthly, have also appeared in American anthologies. 

ARMAND LANUSSE (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1812-67) was one of the most distin- 
guished members of a social group in New Orleans known as free men of 
color. He received an excellent education, but it is not clear at this date 
whether or not he studied in France, as did so many of the talented colored 
youths of his group at that time. Lanusse was best known during his lifetime 
as the principal of the Catholic School for Indigent Orphans of color, a position 
he held from 1852 to 1866. Earlier than this, however, he was the leader of 
a group of young poets writing in French whose work he compiled in a signifi- 
cant little volume published in 1845 under the title Les Cenelles. 

BETTE DARCIE LAT1MER (Rochester, New York, 1927- ) was educated in Rochester 
schools and at Fisk University, from which she graduated in 1948. She was 
then given a tuition fellowship for graduate study at the University of Michi- 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 401 

gan, mainly on the strength of her creative writing. As an undergraduate she 
was an assistant editor and a frequent contributor to the Fisk Herald. Her 
poems have also appeared in Phylon and The Crisis. 

WILLIAM ELLERY LEONARD (Plainfield, New Jersey, 1876-1944) 

VACHEL LINDSAY (Springfield, Illinois, 1879-1931) 

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (Portland, Maine, 1807-82) 

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1819-91) 

GEORGE MARION McCLELLAN (Belfast, Tennessee, 1860-1934) was educated at 
Fisk University and at Hartford Theological Seminary. The Path of Dreams, 
the volume that contains his best poems, was published in 1916. 

BASIL McFARLANE (Jamaica, B.W.I.) (Kingston, 1922- ) is the son of J. E. Clare 
McFarlane. He attended briefly Jamaica College and Calabar College before 
joining the Royal Air Force in 1944, but is mainly self-educated. He served in 
England for two years but returned to Jamaica to be demobilized after the 
war. He has since been a clerk in the government service of the island. His 
poems have appeared in the London Mercury and in Life and Letters. 

J. E. CLARE McFARLANE (Jamaica, B.W.I. ) (Spanish Town, 1896- ) was educated 
privately and at Cornwall College. He has had a long and distinguished 
career in the island's civil service and now holds one of the most important 
government posts filled by a Jamaican. He is the deputy financial secretary 
and treasurer, and president of the Civil Service Association. Even more im- 
portant, in the opinion of some, has been his contribution to the cultural life 
of the West Indies. He founded the Poetry League of Jamaica a quarter of a 
century ago and is the editor of Voices from Summerland, the first anthology 
of Jamaican poetry. Among other honors bestowed upon him, he has been 
named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an officer of the Order of 
the British Empire. 

CLAUDE McKAY (Jamaica, B.WJ.) (Clarendon, 1891-1948) was the youngest of 
eleven children. His father was a farmer, his older brother the schoolmaster 
of the village. McKay received his elementary education in his brother's 
school, and at the age of seventeen he won a Jamaica Trade Scholarship and 
was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker and wheelwright. At nineteen he joined 
the Jamaica constabulary, and a year kter he published his first book of 
poems, Songs of Jamaica. These dialect verses became popular locally and 
earned McKay an award from the Institute of Arts and Sciences. A year later 
he came to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. After 
a few months at Tuskegee he went to Kansas State University, where he re- 
mained two years as a student in the Department of Agriculture. He then went 
to New York City and began contributing poetry to American magazines. In 
1919 he went to Europe. During a year in London he published Spring in 
New Hampshire, 1920, a volume of poetry. On his return to America he be- 
came associate editor of the Liberator under Max Eastman. Harlem Shadows, 
his widely known book of poetry, came out in 1922. McKay then went abroad 
again and remained on the continent of Europe for about a decade. During 
that time, and in the years immediately following, he wrote much prose, in- 
cluding such well-known books as Home to Harlem, 1928, Banjo, 1929, Gin- 



402 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

gertown, 1932, Banana Bottom, 1933, A Long Way from Home, 1937, and 
Harlem: Negro Metropolis, 1940. 

ST. CLAIR McKELWAY (Charlotte, North Carolina, 1905- ) 

A. B. MAGIL (Phikdelphia, Pennsylvania, 1905- ) 

ROGER MAIS (Jamaica, B.W.I.) (Kingston, 1905- ) has had a varied and 
sometimes stormy career in his native Jamaica. His activities have included 
planting, clerkship, photography, painting, newspaper reporting, magazine 
editing, and several other occupations. One of his articles, "Now We Know," 
provoked a bitter political controversy and resulted in his internment for 
eighteen months. He is the author of Face and Other Stories, 1942, and of 
And Most of All Man, 1943, in which a group of his stories are collected with 
some of his poems. 

UNA-M. MARSON (Jamaica, B.W.I.) (Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth, 1905- ) has 
had a brilliant career as a journalist, lecturer, and poet. After serving in 
several secretarial and editorial posts on her native island, she went to London 
and worked with the League of Colored Peoples from 1933 to 1935. She was 
a delegate to the 12th Congress of the International Alliance of Women, 
Istanbul. She was given an assignment in connection with the League of 
Nations in Geneva the same year, and a year later she was attached to the 
staff of the Ethiopian Legation in London. She accompanied H. M. Haile 
Selassie to the meeting of the League of Nations at which he undertook to 
deal with the Italo-Ethiopian problem. She lectured widely in England and 
served as editor and broadcaster in the West Indies Program of the BBC, 
London, from 1941 to 1946, when she returned to Jamaica. Her published 
books include Tropic Reveries, 1930, Heights and Depths, 1931, The Moth 
and the Star, 1937, and Towards the Stars, 1945. She has also written plays, 
one of which was produced at the Scala Theatre in London in 1934. Her pkys 
have had three Kingston productions. 

AGNES MAXWELL-HALL (Jamaica, B.W.I.) (Montego Bay, 1894- ) was educated 
in London, Boston, and in New York City, where she studied short-story 
writing at Columbia University. Her stories and poems have appeared in little 
magazines in the United States and in England. She owns and operates a dairy 
in the Jamaica mountains at Kempshot, the site of the observatory of her 
father, the late Maxwell Hall, F.R.A.S., F.R.M. et S. 

HERMAN MELVILLE (New York, N.Y., 1819-91) 

CATULLE MENDES (France) (Bordeaux, 1841-1909) 

JOSEPHINE MILES (Chicago, Illinois, 1911- ) 

IOUIS MORPEAU (Haiti) (Aux Cayes, 1895-1926) studied at the College of St. 
Martial and at the Lyc6e National in Port-au-Prince. Later he became a 
teacher in the Lycee National and an influential figure in Haitian literature. 
He has represented Haiti at various conferences in Paris and elsewhere and 
contributed many articles on his country to French periodicals. His publica- 
tions include Pages de Jeunesse et de Foi, 1919, Une Oeuvre de Pitie Sociale, 
a brochure, Anthologie Haitienne des Poetes Contemporains, 1904-1920, 1920, 
and VEnterrement de la Merlasse, Paris, 1924. 

BEATRICE M. MURPHY (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) has spent most of her life in Wash- 
ington, D.C., where she is now a stenographer in the Veterans' Administration. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 403 

She also writes for newspapers and has edited two anthologies: Negro Voices, 
1938, and Ebony Rhythm, 1948. 

PAUL1 MURRAY (Baltimore, Maryland, 1910- ) began her education in the public 
schools of Durham, North Carolina, and continued it in the high school at 
Richmond Hill, New York, at Hunter College in New York City, in the 
Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and at the University 
of California School of Jurisprudence, which conferred on her the degree of 
LL.M. in 1945. She also attended Brookwood Labor College. She is a member 
of the bar of California and of New York, where she is now practicing. She 
has held academic fellowships, including one from the Julius Rosenwald 
Fund, and won prizes and awards from Howard University, the National 
Council of Negro Women, and the magazine Mademoiselle. She has written 
articles and pamphlets, and her poems have appeared in such magazines as 
Common Ground, South Today, Opportunity, The Crisis, and the Saturday 
Review of Literature. 

IGNACE NAU (Haiti) (Port-au-Prince, 1812-45) studied in Haiti at ^Institution 
Jonathas Granville and then in New York at L'Institut Catholique. On return- 
ing to Haiti he was made officer detache of the arsenal but was later-discharged 
from his post. An eloquent nationalist orator, he became an authority on 
colonial lif e and traveled in France. But he soon retired from the political arena 
and withdrew to his country home to write and study at leisure. Earlier he 
had a hand in the publication of Revue des Colonies, Paris, 1837. 

ALICE DUNBAR NELSON (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1875-1935) was the wife of Paul 
Laurence Dunbar. She was educated in the public schools of New Orleans 
and at Straight College. Later she attended several Northern universities. She 
taught school in New Orleans and in Brooklyn prior to her marriage to Dunbar 
in 1898. She published several volumes of prose. 

EFFIE LEE NEWSOME (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1885- ) has lived much of her 
Me at Wilberforce, Ohio. Most of her writing is for children and deals with 
nature lore. She is the author of Gladiola Garden, 1940. 

MYRON O'HIGGINS (Chicago, Illinois, 1918- ) was born on Chicago's south 
side, where he attended both public and parochial schools. He went to Howard 
University for his college work, studying under the guidance of Sterling A. 
Brown. As an undergraduate, his literary efforts won him a Lucy Moten Fel- 
lowship for travel and study in Mexico and Cuba. O'Higgins remained at 
Howard to take the master's degree and then served briefly as an instructor 
in English before entering the Army. He was awarded a Julius Rosenwald 
Fellowship upon his discharge from the Army. His poems have appeared in 
magazines and in a limited collection called The Lion and the Archer, 1948, 
issued in collaboration with Robert Hayden., 

BARBARA STEPHANIE ORMSBY (Jamaica, B.W.I.) ( Savanna-la-Mar, 1899- ) was 
educated at Colonial High School in Kingston and at Whitelands College, 
Putney, England. She has been writing poetry since childhood. 

KENNETH PATCHEN (Niles, Ohio, 1911- ) 

REGINO PEDROSO (Cuba) (Union de Reyes, 1896- ) is of Chinese and Negro 
ancestry. His youth was marked by heavy labor in the sugar, railroad, and 
steel industries, but later he was employed in the Ministry of Education. He 



404 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

is children's librarian at Parque Marti in Havana. He published several vol- 
umes of poetry, including Nostros, 1933, Mas Alia Canta el Mar, 1939, which 
received the National Literary Prize; and Bolivar: Sinfonia de Libertad, 1945. . 

PLACIDO [Gabriel de la Concepcio'n Valdes] (Cuba) (Havana, 1809-44) is one of 
Cuba's national heroes. The illegitimate son of a colored father and a white 
Spanish dancer, he started life in an orphanage in Havana. Later he was 
rescued from this institution by his father and brought up by his paternal 
grandmother. At seventeen Placido left Havana and made Matanzas his home. 
He was apprenticed to a tortoise-shell craftsman, an occupation which fostered 
in him the contemplation of nature. Poetry was the next step. At the age of 
thirty-five Placido was executed by the Spanish rulers of the island, a martyr 
in Cuba's struggle for liberty. 

KENNETH PORTER (Sterling, Kansas, 1905- ) 

CHARLES FERNAND PRESSOIR (Haiti) (Paris, France, 1910- ) was educated in 
France and Engknd up to and including his baccalaureate in Paris in 1928. 
He took a law degree in Port-au-Prince in 1931, studied philology in Haiti, and 
then went to Columbia University in New York for studies in economics. He 
is now attached to the Internal Revenue Service in Haiti. He is also president 
of the Creole Academy. He is the author of Au Rythme des Coumbites, 1933, 
and Debats sur le Creole et le Folklore, 1947. 

TOM REDCAM [Thomas Henry McDermot] (Jamaica) (Clarendon, 1870-1933) was 
educated at Falmouth Academy and at the Church of England Grammar 
School at Kingston. He started his career as a schoolmaster and gradually 
moved into journalism and literature. His patriotic songs have earned him a 
high place in the esteem of the island, where his countrymen sometimes called 
him "The Uncrowned Laureate of Jamaica." 

WALTER ADOLPHE ROBERTS (Jamaica) (Kingston, 1886- ) grew up in the town 
of Mandeville and became a reporter on the Daily Gleaner at the age of 
sixteen. Two years later he arrived in the United States and began a jour- 
nalistic career that has since included work on newspapers and magazines 
from New York to San Francisco. When World War I broke out, Roberts was 
sent to France as a war correspondent by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Between 
1918 and 1921 he served as editor of Ainslee's Magazine. A year later he be- 
came associate editor of Hearst's International Magazine, and this was followed 
by other editorships. His books include novels, biographies, and such vivid 
historical works as The Caribbean, and The French in the West Indies. His 
books of verse are Pierrot Wounded and Other Poems, 1919, and Pan and 
Peacocks, 1928. 

EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON (Head Tide, Maine, 1869-1935) 

SELDEN RODMAN (New York, N.Y., 1909- ) 

JACQUES ROUMAIN (Haiti) (Port-au-Prince, 1907-44) was educated largely in 
Europe. He was a prominent member of the group of young Haitian writers 
who founded the influential Revue Indigene in the late twenties, and he con- 
tributed some of its most distinguished poems. The first of his published works 
was a volume of short stories, La Proie et L'Ombre. It was followed in 1931 
by La Montagne Ensorcelee and Les Fantoches. Gouverneurs de la Ros6e 
appeared in 1944. Roumain's name became widely known internationally as 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 405 

a result of his political imprisonment and exile and his subsequent return to his 
native knd and a post in the foreign service of the government. He died soon 
afterward, but the posthumous publication in English of his novel Masters of 
the Dew, New York, 1947, added to his literary stature. 

EMILE ROUMER (Haiti) (Jer<mie, 1903- ) attended the Institute of St. Louis 
de Gonzague and later studied in France and England before entering the 
practice of law. He was one of the group that founded the Revue Indigene. 
His publications include Poemes d'Haiti et de France, 1925, and Nouveaux 
Poemes, 1945. 

MURIEL RUKEYSER (New York, N.Y., 1913- ) 

CARL SANDBURG (Galesburg, Illinois, 1878- ) 

A. J. SEYMOUR (British Guiana) (1914r- ) was educated at Queen's College, 
Georgetown, and is now an assistant public information officer for British 
Guiana. He also edits Kykoveral, a twice-a-year literary and critical magazine, 
and serves the British Guiana Writers' Association and the British Guiana 
Union of Cultural Clubs as president and home secretary respectively. His 
published works include Verse, 1937, More Poems, 1940, Over Guiana Clouds, 
1944, Sun's in My Blood, 1945, and Six Songs, 1946. He is, moreover, married 
and the father of six children. 

KARL SHAPIRO (Baltimore, Maryland, 1913- ) 

PHILLIP M. SHERLOCK (Jamaica) (Portland, 1902- ) was educated at Calabar 
High School on the island and in London, where he received his college 
degree. He has had a long career as schoolmaster, librarian, and education 
officer in Jamaica. He has written and published a number of books for use 
in schools and is considered an authority on Jamaican folklore. 

EDWARD S. SILVERA (Jacksonville, Florida, 1906-37) was graduated from the Orange 
High School in 1924 and then went on to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. 
At Lincoln he participated in athletics and wrote poems, some of which were 
included in a pamphlet called Four Lincoln Poets, 1930. His verses also ap- 
peared in magazines and anthologies before his early death. 

LOUIS SIMPSON (Kingston, Jamaica) (1923- ) came to the United States to 
enter Columbia University. During the war he served in Europe with distinc- 
tion. His studies, interrupted at Columbia, were resumed in Paris at the end 
of the hostilities. 

ANNE SPENCER (Bramwell, West Virginia, 1882- ) was educated in the Virginia 
Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, the city in which she has spent most of her 
life. She is the librarian of the Dunbar High School there. Recently she de- 
veloped a pink candy-striped Chinese peony, eight years from seed. This fact, 
perhaps, tells as much about her life as anything with the exception of her 
poems. Though these have appeared in magazines and anthologies for a 
number of years, they have not been collected in a book. 

EDMOND CLARENCE STEDMAN (Hartford, Connecticut, 1883-1908) 

NORMIL G. SYLVAIN (Haiti) (Port-au-Prince, 1901-29) was educated first in Paris 
at llnstitution Ste. Marie de Monceau and then at the College St. Martial in 
Port-au-Prince. He studied medicine in Haiti and entered the medical pro- 
fession in 1926. He was associated with the group of young writers who 
founded the Revue Indigene in their search for an idiom native to their own 



406 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

Haitian background. He was equally interested in medical affairs of the island, 
and he was among the founders of FAssociation de Medecine Haitienne. He 
founded the Annales de la Medecine Haitienne. 

HAROLD MILTON TELEMAQUE (Trinidad, B.W.I.) (Plymouth, Tobago, 1911- ) 
is the son of a captain of a sailing schooner which operated among the islands 
of the West Indies. He was educated by Moravian ministers at Bethesda, at 
Bishop's High School at Scarborough, and at the Government Training College 
for Teachers. His work as a schoolteacher on the island led finally to the head 
mastership of the large Fyzabad Intermediate E. C. School, his present posi- 
tion. Burnt ~Bush y 1947, presents the first published collection of his poems. 

LUCY TERRY (Eighteenth century) was the slave of Ensign Ebenezer Wells of Deer- 
field, Massachusetts. Her "Bars Fight" recounts 'the events of a bloody Indian 
raid on the settlers of that town on August 25, 1746. George A. Sheldon, his- 
torian of Deerfield and student of the Indian wars in the Connecticut Valley, 
says that her description of that episode during King George's War is the best 
and most colorful version extant. 

PHILIPPE THOBY-MARCELLIN (Haiti) (Port-au-Prince, 1904- ) was educated in 
the Petit Seminaire and the College of St. Martial. He is a professional 
journalist, but from the first his interest has been in the literary reviews and 
newer kinds of writing. He was associated with La Nouvelle Ronde ( 1925-26), 
the Revue Indigene (1927-28), La Revue Europeene (1928), La Revue 
Caraire (1931), La Releve (1932-1940), Les Criots (1938-39), France- 
Amtrique (1934), and Gaceta del Caribe (1944), Conjunction (1947-48). He 
was in charge of "Studio No. 3," bulletin of the Centre D'Art (1945-46). He 
has published several books of poems, including La Negresse Adolescente, 
1932, Dialogue avec la Femme Endormie, 1941, and Lago-Lago, 1943. Two 
novels by him, written in collaboration with Pierre Marcellin, are known in 
the United States. CanapS Vert, New York, 1944, won the Farrar & Rinehart 
prize for a Latin-American novel. La "Bete de Musseau was brought out in 
New York by the same publishers in 1946 under the title The Beast of the 
Haitian Hills. 

MELVIN BEAUNEARUS TOLSON (Moberly, Missouri, 1898- ) completed under- 
graduate college work at Lincoln University and then went to Columbia for 
an M.A. For twenty-two years he was a member of the faculty of Wiley 
College in Marshall, Texas, where he became widely known for his debating 
teams and his work with the drama club and the English department. His 
poem, "Dark Symphony," won a prize at the Negro American Exposition in 
Chicago and later appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, before being included 
in a collected volume of his poetry, Rendezvous With America, 1944. From 
Wiley he went to Langston University as professor of English. 

JEAN TOOMER (Washington, D.C., 1894- ) was educated at the University of 
Wisconsin and the College of the City of New York. In 1918 he decided on a 
literary career, and his poems, short stories, and sketches began appearing in 
magazines. These were collected in 1923 in the book Cane. 

RIDGELY TORRENCE (Xenia, Ohio, 1875- ) 

ISAAC TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE (Haiti) (Ennery, 1782-1854) was the son of the 
Haitian liberator and governor of Santo Domingo. He was educated in a 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 407, 

military school in France. An eloquent prose writer as well as poet, Isaac 
Toussaint L'Ouverture left memoirs unpublished in Bordeaux at the time of 
his death. He is sometimes credited with authorship of L'Haitiade > a poem 
in the epic tradition, published in Paris in 1828. He was one of those unusual 
individuals who combine the qualities of charm, bravery, good looks, and 
physical prowess with the ability to write well. 

PERIENT TROTT (McKeesport, Pennsylvania, 1910- ) 

H. A. VAUGHAN (Barbados, B.W.I.) (1901- ) continued his education in Eng- 
land, where he studied law. He has been a member of the Barbados House of 
Assembly, but is now a district magistrate on the island. His special interest is 
the history of Barbados, in which connection he is working on a biography of 
Sir Conrad Reeves. He published Sandy Land and Other Poems in 1945. 

DURACINE VAVAL (Haiti) (Aux Cayes, 1879- ) studied in Paris and went on to 
qualify for the practice of law. He has been a teacher as well as a civil judge 
in his home city and in Port-au-Prince. He was at one time the chief of the 
Haitian Legation in London. His publications include Vart Dans la Vie, 1900; 
Conferences Historiques, 1907; Coup d'Oeil sur TEtat Financier de la Repub- 
lique, a brochure, 1907; Litterature Haitienne, critical essays, Paris, 1911; 
Les Stances Haitiennes, Paris, 1912; and L'Ame Noire, 1933, also published in 
Paris. 

VIVIAN L VIRTUE (Jamaica, B.W.I.) (Kingston, 1911- ) was educated at King- 
ston College. The first collection of his poems appeared in 1938 under the title 
Wings of the Morning. He has contributed to such British magazines as Life 
and Letters and the London Mercury. He is an officer of the Poetry League 
of Jamaica and a member of the Royal Society of Literature of England. 

MARGARET ABIGAIL WALKER (Birmingham, Alabama, 1915- ). A minister's 
daughter, Margaret Walker attended Methodist church schools in Mississippi 
and Alabama before enrolling at Gilbert Academym-New Orleans, from which 
she graduated in 1930. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1935. 
In 1940 she received a master's degree from ,the State University of Iowa and 
two years later became an instructor in English at Livingstone College, Salis- 
bury, North Carolina. From 1942-43 she taught English at West Virginia 
State College. Her first book of poems, For My People, was published in 1942 
after winning the Yale University Younger Poets competition. A Rosenwald 
Fellowship for creative writing followed in 1944. 

IRMA WASSAL (Amarillo, Texas, 1909- ) ^ 

CHRISTIAN WERLEIGH (Haiti) (Cap Haitien, 1895-1945) was educated by the 
Freres de rinstruction Chretienne and at the Lyc^e National Philippe 
Guerrier in Cap Haitien. He later became a professor of rhetoric in the same 
institution and remained in this post the rest of his life. His best-known work, 
perhaps, is Le Palmiste Dans I'Ouragan, Cap Haitien, 1930 (but two earlier 
collections of his verse were Contre la Balustrade, published in France, and 
La Halte au Bord du Fleuve). Later came Le Palmiste Dans la Lumiere, 1934, 
publication of which was sponsored by President Stenio Vincent of Haiti, and 
finally Ma Ville, Mon Pays, Port-au-Prince, 1944. For the theatre Werleigh 
wrote two verse plays, La Fleu du Sacrifice and Tout Pour le Hoi. He left in 



408 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

manuscript a five-act drama dedicated to Toussaint L'Ouverture, La Mort 
Couronne. 

DON WEST (Ellijay, Georgia, 1909- ) 

PHttLIS WHEATLEY (Senegal, West Africa, 1753-84) was captured and sold into 
slavery in early childhood and brought to Boston in 1761. She became the 
property of John Wheatley of Boston whose wife and daughter soon noted 
the alert sensitivity of the young African girl and encouraged Phillis's efforts 
to acquire learning. Within a few years she was completely at home in the 
language and literature of her captors. She began writing poetry, and in 1770, 
at the age of seventeen, published "A Poem, by Phillis, A Negro Girl in Boston, 
on the Death of the Reverend George Whitefield." When her health began to 
fail, Phillis was advised by doctors to take a sea voyage. This was arranged by 
the kindly mistress, who also gave the girl her freedom before she sailed for 
England. In London, Phillis was a success. It was there that her only collected 
volume of verse was first issued under the title Poems on Various Subjects, 
Religious and Moral, 1773. Then one by one the patrons of this talented ex- 
slave girl died and she returned to Boston. Her marriage was unhappy, and 
she died as a servant in a cheap lodging house at the age of thirty-one. 
CHARLES ENOCH WHEELER (Augusta, Georgia, 190&- ) attended private schools 
in Augusta and the Henry George School in New York. He has been published 
in The Crisis and other periodicals, and a book of his poems, Prelude, was 
privately issued in 1943. 

WALT WHITMAN (near Huntington, Long Island, N.Y., 1819-92) 
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER (Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1807-92) 
NAOMI LONG WITHERSPOON (Norfolk, Virginia, 1923- ) is the youngest of 
three children of a Baptist minister. She attended elementary school in East 
Orange, New Jersey, and high school in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated 
from Virginia State College in 1945 and in the following year enrolled at New 
York University. A brochure of her poems was issued in 1941 under the title 
Songs to a Phantom Nightingale. Her work has also appeared in magazines. 
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (England) ( Cockennouth, Cumberland, 1770-1850) 
BRUCE McM, WRIGHT (Princeton, New Jersey, 1918- ) attended college at Lin- 
coln University in Pennsylvania. After a period of army service overseas during 
World War II, he entered Fordham University's School of Law. While he was 
abroad, a collection of his poems achieved publication in Wales under the 
title From the Shaken Tower, 1944. 

RICHARD WRIGHT (near Natchez, Mississippi, 1908- ) was born on a plantation. 
His family moved frequently and his education didn't get far. At fifteen he left 
home to work as a porter and messenger in Memphis. It was there he began 
to read and educate himself. The urge to write followed quickly. He made his 
way to Chicago, and in 1935 got on the Federal Writer's Project. By this time 
he had published poetry, articles, and stories in the little magazines. He then 
began working on the stories which finally went into his first book, Uncle 
Tom's Children, 1938. This book won a contest open to all WPA writers and 
led to a Guggenheim Fellowship for its author. Wright was thus enabled to 
quit the project and complete his first novel. Native Son, 1940, was not only a 
Book-of-the-Month Club selection but an outstanding critical and popular 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 409 

success. From the point of view of the Negro in American literature it became 
a significant milepost. It was followed by Twelve Million Black Voices, 1941, a 
folk history, and by Black Boy, 1945, an autobiographical book which re- 
peated in nearly every way the success of Wright's Native Son. A dramatiza- 
tion of Native Son by Wright and Paul Green was produced in 1940 and later 
included among the best plays of the year. 



TRANSLATORS 



L. A. Lionel Able 

J. P. B. John Peale Bishop 

B. F. C. Ben F. Carruthers 

M. C. Mercer Cook 

I. G. Ivan Goll 

L. H. Langston Hughes 

J. W. J. James Weldon Johnson 

J. F. M. John F. Matheus 

E. W. U. Edna Worthley Underwood 

D. D. W. Donald Devenish Walsh 



AUTHOR INDEX 



AUTHOR INDEX 

Alexander, Lewis, 84, 85 
Alexander, Sidney, 294, 304-6 
Allen, Hervey, 285 
Atkins, Russell, 208 

Barrow, Raymond, 345 

Benet, Stephen Vincent, 243-45 

Benet, William Rose, 295 

Bennett, Gwendolyn B., 109, 110 

Bishop, Elizabeth, 288-92 

Blake, William, 215 

Bodenheim, Maxwell, 272-75 

Bontemps, Arna, 110-20 

Boyle, Kay, 275-79 

Braithwaite, William Stanley, 42-45 

Brawley, Benjamin Griffith, 50 

Brierre, Jean F., 369 

Brooks, Gwendolyn, 188-92 

Brooks, Jonathan Henderson, 133-36 

Brown, Sterling A., 86-93 

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 216-26 

Bynner, Witter, 295 

Camille, Roussan, 366-68 

Campbell, George, 317 

Cannon, David Wadsworth, Jr., 160 

Carberry, H. D., 335-38 

Cater, Catharine, 192 

C6saire, Aime, 370 

Christian, Marcus B., 83, 84 

Coicou, Massillon, 67 

Collins, Helen Johnson, 193 

Collins, Leslie Morgan, 172 

Collymore, Frank A., 347 

Corbin, Alice, 247 

Corrothers, James David, 21, 22 

Cotter, James Seamon, Jr., 71, 72 

Cotter, James Seamon, Sr., 14 

Crane, Hart, 254 

Cullen, Countee, 121-33 

Cuney, Waring, 145-49 

Curtright, Wesley, 159 



4\6 AUTHOR INDEX 

Dalcour, Pierre, 12 

Damas, Lex>n, 371 

Davis, Frank Marshall, 141-44 

Dekny, Clarissa Scott, 94-96 

Dismond, H. Binga, 67, 68 

Dodson, Owen, 172-76 

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt, 

Duckett, Alfred, 202 

Dunbar, Paul Laurence, 33-41 

Durand, Oswald, 350-53 

Fauset, Jessie Redmond, 65-67 
Fletcher, John Gould, 255-57 

Grimard, Luc, 355 

Grimke, Angelina Weld, 47-49 

Guillen, Nicolas, 374r-83 

Hammon, Jupiter, 4 
Harper, Frances E. W., 10, 11 
Hayden, Robert E., 163-71 
Hayes, Donald Jeffrey, 137-40 
Heyward, Du Bose, 286 
Hill, Leslie Pinckney, 46 
Hollar, Constance, 322 
Holloway, John Wesley, 17 
Holloway, Lucy Ariel Williams, 144 
Holman, Moses Carl, 203-7 
Home, Frank, 76-83 
Horton, George Moses, 9 
Hughes, Langston, 97-108 

Johnson, Dorothy Vena, 120 
Johnson, Fenton, 61-64 
Johnson, Georgia Douglas, 57-60 
Johnson, Helene, 150-54 
Johnson, Herbert Clark, 161, 162 
Johnson, James Weldon, 23-33 

Laluah, Aquah, 384r-86 
Lanusse, Armand, 12 
Latimer, Bette Darcie, 208 
Leonard, William Ellery, 259-71 
Lindsay, Vachel, 250-54 
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 234 
Lowell, James Russell, 238 



AUTHOR INDEX 417 



McClellan, George Marion, 22 
McFarlane, Basil, 320 
McFarlane, J. E. Claire, 321 
McKay, Claude, 327-35 
McKelway, St. Clair, 300-4' 
Magil, A. B., 282 
Mais, Roger, 323 
Marson, Una M., 324, 325 
MaxweU-HaU, Agnes, 310, 311 
Melville, Herman, 246 
Mendes, Catulle, 68 
Miles, Josephine, 300 
Morpeau, 'Louis, 354 
Murphy, Beatrice M., 162 
Murray, Pauli, 159 

Nau, Ignace, 355 
Nelson, Alice Dunbar, 41 
Newsome, Effie Lee, 55, 56 

O'Higgins, Myron, 194-99 
Ormsby, Stephanie, 309 

Patchen, Kenneth, 272 

Pedroso, Regino, 372 

Placido, 383 

Porter, Kenneth, 299 

Pressoir, Charles Fernand, 361-64 

Redcam, Tom, 309 

Roberts, Walter Adolphe, 311-17 

Robinson, Edwin Arlington, 227-34 

Rodman, Selden, 245, 292-94 

Roumain, Jacques, 364-66 

Roumer, Emile, 361 

Rukeyser, Muriel, 280 

Sandburg, Carl, 287 

Seymour, A. J., 338-44 

Shapiro, Karl, 283-85 

Sherlock, Phillip M,, 320 

Silvera, Edward S., 150 

Simpson, Louis, 319 

Spencer, Anne, 50-55 

Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 239-43 

Sylvain, Normil G., 359 



418 AUTHOR INDEX 

Telemaque, Harold Milton, 348-50 
Terry, Lucy, 3 

Thoby-Mareellin, PMHppe, 856-58 
Token, Melvin Beaunearus, 72 
Toomer, Jean, 68-71 
Torrence, Ridgely, 257 
Toussaint-L'Ouverture, Isaac, 353 
Trott, Perient, 248 

Vaughan, H. A., 346 
Vaval, Duracine, 360 
Virtue, Vivian L., 325-27 

Walker, Margaret Abigail, 176-88 
Wassal, Irma, 292 
Werleigh, Christian, 358 
West, Don, 297 
Wheatley, PMlKs, 6, 7 
Wheeler, Charles Enoch, 158 
Whitman, Walt, 213-15 
Whittier, John Greenleaf , 236 
Witherspoon, Naomi Long, 207 
Wordsworth, William, 226 
Wright, Bruce McM., 200-2 
Wright, Richard, 154-58 



FIRST LINE INDEX 



FIRST LINE INDEX 

A blind girl singing on the radio, 292 

A boy should have an open fireplace, 161 

A Fancy halts my feet at the way-side well, 14 

A glamor of regret is on the brown, 312 

A silence slipping around like death, 47 

A washing hangs on the line, 288 

Above a rough altar, coarse cement all, 361 

Against this wrong of the Teutonic might, 45 

Ah, little road all whirry in the breeze, 154 

Alarm and time clock still intrude too early, 205 

Alas! and am I born for this, 9 

All the time they were praying, 147 

All through an empty place I go, 131 

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, 331 

Am I alone or is it you, my friend, 227 

An angel, robed in spotless white, 34 

And God stepped out on space, 28 

And in strange lands, 336 

And it's fare you well, fare you well, 168 

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing; 

156 

And so, when the time came, 347 
As Lise however my mother was white, 352 
At early mom the telephone, 68 
At Lagos you knew sad faced girls, 364 
At nine o'clock the bus snouts cityward, 319 
August 'twas the twenty-fifth, 3 

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root, 327 

Because I had loved so deeply, 41 

Because somewhere there was a man in a candystripe silk shirt, 164 

Bend willow, willow bend down deep, 161 

Beside the ungathered rice he lay, 234 

Black Crispus Attacks taught, 72 

Black is what the prisons are, 201 

Blackbird, blackbird in the cage, 257 

Block the cannon; let no trumpets sound, 197 

Bow down my soul in worship very low, 334 

Brother come, 72 

Brother to the firefly, 55 

But in the crowding darkness not a word did they say, 190 



422 FIRST UNE INDEX 

Call it neither love nor spring madness, 159 
Celestial choir! enthron'd in realms of light, 6 
Cemeteries are places for departed souls, 110 
Christ washed the feet of Judas!, 13 
Consider me a memory, a dream that passed away, 60 
Cuba, disheveled, naked to the waist, 316 

Dark is the face of Harriet, 181 

Dead men are far the wisest, for they know, 126 

Deep in the woods well go, 159 

Delphy's breast was wide and deep, 247 

Dey was hard times jus f o* Christmas round our neighborhood one year, 22 

Do you mind the news while we eat?, 320 

"Do you not wish to renounce the Devil?, 12 

Doubt no longer miracles, 111 

Dressed up in my melancholy, 203 

Drifting scent of the Georgia pines, 163 

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, 98 

Drum on your drums, batter on your banjoes, 287 

Dry Gap a dingy general store, 160 

Eagerly, 141 

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 39 

Everything was wrong; the local slaves wore smiles, 245 

Fade in the sound of summer music, 203 

Faiths washed away, 356 

Far from your native hills although you roam, 326 

Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room, 250 

Father Missouri takes his own, 89 

Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa, 53 

Flushed with the hope of high desire, 50 

For I am a rightful fellow of their band, 191 

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly, 186 

Fo'ty acres jes' fo* me, 160 

Full moon rising on the waters of my heart, 70 

Gay little Girl-of-tfie-Diving-Tank, 52 

Gleaning she goes down the far golden ways, 325 

Go through the gates with closed eyes, 116 

Golgotha is a mountain, a purple mound, 117 

Gone, gonesold and gone, 236 

Great Amazon of God behold your bread, 188 

G'way an* quit that noise, Miss Lucy, 35 

Have you dug the spill, 101 

Having attained success in business, 143 



FIRST LINE INDEX 423 

He came, a youth, singing in the dawn, 21 

He came in silvern armour, trimmed with black, 109 

He entered with the authority of politeness, 284 

He never spoke a word to me, 125 

He snuggles his fingers, 86 

He was born in Alabama, 189 

He who has rolled his pants up to his knee, 161 

Hello dar, Miss Melerleel, 17 

Here at the crossroads is the night so black, 259 

Here is the way the white man's heaven felt, 292 

Here lies the street of the three balls, 193 

Here where the pirate chieftains sailed, 309 

Here's to your eyes, 78 

HIGH-YELLOW of my heart, with breasts like tangerines, 361 

His friends went off and left him dead, 133 

Honey, 92 

Honey, pepper, leaf -green limes, 310 

How cool beneath this stone the soft moss lies, 174 

How like the consummation and despair, 167 

How tender the heart grows, 325 

I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them, 154 

I am so tired and weary, 71 

I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else's civilization, 62 

I came as a shadow, 84 

I closed my shutters fast last night, 59 

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind, 132 

I dreamed all my fortitude screamed, 204 

I greet you, son, with joy and winter rue, 135 

I grieve to think of you alone, 137 

I had no thought of violets of late, 41 

I have a river in my mind, 172 

I have a story fit to tell, 295 

I have awakened from the unknowing to the knowing, 208 

I have just seen a beautiful thing, 49 

I have seen you suffer in the midst of winters, 369 

I have sown beside all waters in my day, 110 

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth, 125 

I hear the halting footsteps of a lass, 331 

I hold the splendid daylight in my hands, 317 

I hope when I am dead that I shall lie, 67 

I knock at the door of a romance, 381 

I know what the caged bird feels, alas, 33 

I ply with all the cunning of my art, 83 

I remember distinctly the tired tumult of my urges, 200 

I remember Wednesday was the day, 196 

I, remembering how light love, 323 



424 FIRST LINE INDEX 

I return the bitterness, 85 

I see her on a lonely forest track, 317 

I see you in the silver, 56 

I stand on the mark, beside the shore, 216 

I stood in a meadow, 120 

I talked to old Lem, 87 

I thought I saw an angel flying low, 111 

I, too, sing America, 97 

I watched them playing there upon the sand, 294 

If ever a garden was Gethsemane, 54 

If ever I'd known Italy, 353 

If here and now be but a timely span, 192 

If the unfortunate fate engulfing me, 383 

If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing, 66 

If we must die, let it not be like hogs, 333 

111 build a house of arrogance, 138 

I'm folding up my little dreams, 60 

In an envelope marked, 100 

In the high, high grass of Guin6e, 363 

In the narrow street, 338 

In the tender spreading tropical mornings, 318 

Into the furnace let me go alone, 333 

Is it yourself he loves, 206 

Tse got religion an* I doan care, 248 

It is dangerous for a woman to defy the gods, 51 

It is fitting that you be here, 76 

It is said that many a king in troubled Europe would sell his crown for a 

day of happiness, 61 

It was water I was trying to think of all the time, 138 
It's the long road to Guinea, 365 
IVe known rivers, 105 

Jesus* mother never had no man, 145 i 

John Brown in Kansas settled, like a steadfast Yankee farmer, 239 

Joy shakes me like the wind that lifts a sail, 96 

Lame man said to the blind man, 149 

Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass, 39 

Lazy petals of magnolia-bloom float down the sluggish river, 255 

Let America be America again, 106 

Let Bourbons fight for status quo, 67 

Let de peoples know (unnh), 194 

Let me be buried in the rain, 153 

Let the knowing speak, 158 

Let's build bridges here and there, 59 

Let's not be slow in knowing, 162 

Liberals raised this in their finest hour, 294 



FIRST LINE INDEX 425 

Life to the bigot is a whip, 120 

Lif e-long, poor Browning never knew Virginia, 50 

Lift every voice and sing, 32 

"Light! more light I the shadows deepen, 11 

Little brown baby wif spa'klin' eyes, 37 

Long have I beat with timid hands upon life's leaden door, 58 

Look at me. I am Ishmael, 346 

Look, look! Day dies and the evening has come, 355 

Looks like to me, 99 

Lord, who am I to teach the way, 46 

Lullaby, 290 

Men! whose boast it is that ye, 238 

My father is a quiet man, 129 

My galleon of adventure, 313 

My little stone, 79 

My mother bore me in the southern wild, 215 

My old man's a white old man, 103 

My verses dream-rich and tender you've read, 358 

My window opens out into the trees, 94 

Negro, 374 

Neither the teacher of the class nor the priest with his catechism can, 370 

Night is a curious child, wandering, 141 

Night's brittle song, silver-thin, 142 

No rock along the road but knows, 137 

None in the Land can say, 75 

Not quite sixteen, 366 

Not with my hands, 140 

Now that our love has drifted, 146 

Now the dead past seems vividly alive, 328 

O black and unknown bards of long ago, 23 

O brothers mine, today we stand, 25 

O' de wurl' ain't flat, 144 

O Silent God, Thou whose voice afar in mist and mystery hath left our ears 

an-hungered in these fearful days, 18 
O, what would people say if you, 311 
Oh, Captain of wide western seas, 309 
Oh, full and soft, upon the orange trees, 311 
Oh, let's fix us a julep and kick us a houn', 300 
Oh! Little Girl!, 359 

Oh My Beauty of Night! close, close quick your robe, 355 
Oh, my mother's moaning by the river, 63 
Oh soft flowing rivers, 297 
Old Molly Means was a hag and a witch, 178 
Old Uncle Jim was as blind as a mole, 247 



426 FIRST LIKE INDEX 

Omnipotent and steadfast God, 243 

On a snug evening I shall watch, her fingers, 192 

On a street in Knoxville, 299 

On a train in Texas German prisoners eat, 295 

On summer afternoons I sit, 65 

Once I cried for new songs to sing, 142 

Once I was good like the Virgin Mary and the Minister^ wife, 61 

Once more, listening to the wind and rain, 114 

Once riding in old Baltimore, 128 

Out of abysses of Illiteracy, 76 

Outside wind heavy and wet, 356 

Over Guiana, clouds, 338 

Pan is not dead, but sleeping in the brake, 314 

Peddling, 141 

Please excuse this letter, 162 

Poplars are standing there still as death, 113 

Porgy, Maria, and Bess, 286 

Pour O pour that parting soul in song, 68 

Quadroon mermaids, Afro angels, saints, 165 

Really I know, 371 

Remember not the promises we made, 153 

Sable is my throat, 248 

Salvation comes by Christ alone, 4 

Say, bud, ya got a cigarette, 207 

Seems lak to me de stars don't shine so bright, 31 

Seen my lady home las* night, 34 

She does not know, 145 

She even thinks that up in heaven, 128 

She said, "Not only music; brave men marching, 136 

She was a little girl who smelled, 379 

Shores of my native land, 353 

Since men grow diffident at last, 130 

Sleep late with your dream, 176 

Slowly the night blooms, unfurling, 143 

Slowly we learn; the oft repeated line, 321 

So detached and cool she is, 94 

So long, 102 

So much have I forgotten in ten years, 334 

Some are teethed on a silver spoon, 128 

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves, 327 

Some things are very dear to me, 109 

Somebody, 196 



FIRST LINE INDEX 427 

State Street is lonely today. Aunt Jane Allen has driven her chariot to 

heaven, 62 

Still, it is dear defiance now to carry, 190 
Summer comes, 152 
Summer matures. Brilliant Scorpion, 150 

Terror does not belong to open day, 174 

That bright chimeric beast, 126 

That night my angel stooped and strained, 134 

The bloodhounds look like sad old judges, 272 

The calabash wherein she served my food, 385 

The centuries-old pathos in our voices, 73 

The cotton blouse you wear, your mother said, 84 

The dew is on the grasses, dear, 57 

The dream is a cocktail at Sloppy Joe's, 100 

The elevator rises. Negro men, 274 

The evening star that in the vaulted skies, 12 

The glory of the day was in her face, 30 

The god spoke once that made your girdle fall, 293 

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn, 57 

The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blowing, covered 
with sweat, 213 

The House of Falling Leaves we entered in, 42 

The hunted hare seeks out some dark retreat, 324 

The interests of a black man in a cellar, 254 

The judge who lives impeccably upstairs, 285 

The little birches haunt the hills, 56 

The loose eyes of an old man, 272 

The moonlight breaks upon the city's domes, 330 

The morning's moist and fog-veiled, 358 

The Negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags under- 
neath on its tied-over chain, 214 

The New Negro strides upon the continent, 74 

The new-washed moon drew up from the sea's dark rim, 326 

The night was made for rest and sleep, 96 

The Philippines were drenched in sun, 202 

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside, 213 

The sale beganyoung girls were there, 10 

The scent of jasmines in the sultry air, 312 

The season of love, 357 

The siren cries that ran like mad and naked screaming women, 167 

The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue, 70 

The sky was blue, so blue, that day, 47 

The snow cannot melt too soon for the birds left behind, 173 

The soft gray hands of sleep, 150 

The souls of black and white were made, 385 

The South is green with coming spring: revival, 280 



428 FIRST LINE INDEX 

The starshine on the Arch is silver white, 313 

The sufferance of her race is shown, 246 

The time has come to call a halt, 289 

The wind is blowing from the hill, 346 

The wise guys, 77 

Then the golden hour, 114 

There is a mystic splendor that one feels, 345 

There is a tree, by day, 49 

There is music in me, the music of a peasant people, 61 

There is no peace with you, 65 

There was a man, 14 

These are not words set down for the rejected, 275 

They are ours; we claim them and we claim, 282 

They came from Persia to the Sacred Way, 315 

They have dreamed as young men dreamed, 58 

They hunt chameleon worlds with cameras, 349 

They say La Jac Brite Pink Skin Bleach avails not, 300 

They tell us to forget, 73 

This city is the child of France and Spain, 316 

This is no dreamworld, no nightmare country, no landscape, 164 

This is the final man, 320 

This is the song I rested with, 287 

Though he hung dumb upon her wall, 135 

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, 7 

To climb a hill that hungers for the sky, 151 

To fling my arms wide, 97 

To intoxicate you with the wine of things, 360 

Tonight, 380 

Too green the springing April grass, 329 

Tourists in the courtyard, 374 

TOUSSAINT, the most unhappy man of men, 226 

Traveller take heed for journeys undertaken in the dark of the year, 176 

Twas Summer I recall, 357 

Two women on the lone wet strand, 42 

Until yesterday I was polite and peaceful, 372 

Until your laughter, 158 

Upstood upstaffed passing sinuously away over an airy arch, 208 

Walk with the sun, 85 

Way Down South in Dixie, 103 

We are not come to wage a strife, 119 

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, 188 

We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old land, 180 

We have neither Summer nor Winter, 335 

We saw a bloody sunset over Courtland, once Jerusalem, 90 

We shall not always plant while others reap, 132 



FIRST LINE INDEX 429 



We waged a war within a war, 283 

Weep not, 146 

Weeps out of Kansas country something new, 191 

Well, son, 111 teU you, 104 

What bullet killed him?, 376 

What is Africa to me, 121 

What's that shining in the leaves, 291 

When all our hopes are sown on strong ground, 119 

When I am in my grave, 148 

When I come down to sleep death's endless night, 32 

When I die my song shall be, 63 

When I think of it all I am so sad, 350 

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful, 171 

When love's brief dream is done, 57 

When the green lies over the earth, my dear, 48 

When you dance, 172 

Where are we to go when this is done?, 202 

Where is the Jim Crow section, 104 

Wherefore this busy labor without rest, 46 

White magic of the silences of snow, 43 

Who are these among you, 175 

Who are you dusky women, so ancient hardly human, 214 

Who danced Saturday mornings, 348 

Who is that a-walking in the corn?, 64 

With the hooves of a doe, 304 

Within a native hut, ere stirred the dawn, 384 

Within the cage he ramped and raged, 322 

Within this black hive tonight, 69 

You burned the dawn, 377 

You came like the dawn, 150 

You have been good to me, I give you this, 116 

You will come back to me, 380 

Your door is shut against my tightened face, 332 

Your downcast, harlequin, defenceless face, 273 

Your heart trembles in the shadows, like a face, 364 

Your park's like a Gothic Cathedral to me, 354 

Your voice is the color of a robin's breast, 329 




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